Today, we’re uncovering whether exercise before bed is good or bad for you. The best time of day to exercise has been a subject of debate among health and fitness experts for years. Some swear that mornings are the best time while others insist that later in the day is better. For every argument in favor of one time of day over another, there is another argument against it.
Exercising before bed has been an especially hot topic of debate. Conventional wisdom states that working out before bed can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns and should be avoided at all costs. However, there is a significant number of people who exercise at night regularly and suffer no known ill effects.
So, what is the right answer? Is it safe to exercise before bed and, if not, why? The answer, like many health-related questions, is that it’s complicated.
The Disadvantages of Exercise Before Bed
The idea that exercising before bed can make sleep more difficult is no myth, but it is a bit misleading. High-intensity exercise raises your core body temperature and causes your body to dump adrenaline into your bloodstream, which wakes you up and makes you feel more alert. Understandably, this is the exact opposite of what you want when you’re trying to sleep! This excess of adrenaline and body heat can make it much harder for you to fall asleep since your body needs extra time to cool back down and relax.
However, this may also depend on the kind of exercise being done before bed. While vigorous activity, like aerobics or HIIT, can inhibit your ability to fall asleep, gentle stretching exercises like yoga may make it even easier to fall asleep.
The other primary disadvantage is motivation. It can be very easy to talk yourself out of exercising when you’re exhausted after a long day. Skipping a workout once in a while isn’t that big a deal but it’s a slippery slope to not working out at all.
The Advantages of Exercise Before Bed
The biggest argument in favor of exercising before bed is that it’s better than not exercising at all. Our bodies are made to move and regular exercise can benefit many aspects of our lives, including our sleep. People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better than people who don’t.
Studies are also showing that our fears of late-night exercise making it harder to fall asleep may even be unfounded. The National Sleep Foundation found that people who worked out at night didn’t have issues with their sleep. More surprisingly, more than half of those who exercised vigorously found it even helped them sleep better, regardless of the time of day.
If you are concerned about exercise keeping you awake, exercise a little earlier and follow it with a cool shower. The colder water will help bring your body temperature back down and the time spent decompressing and washing off can help you relax. Plus, you won’t have to go to bed sweaty and smelly!
The Final Verdict
The human body is an extremely complicated thing. With so much variation between us, it can be nearly impossible to establish health universals. Every body is different and unique in its own way and what works for some will not always work for everyone.
Such is the case with exercise. There is no real right answer for when the best time to work out is. Everyone responds differently, and our needs differ based on our bodies but also our lifestyles and schedules.
The secret is finding what works for you and sticking with it. If nighttime is what works for you or is the only time you can exercise, and it isn’t affecting your sleep, then you should absolutely exercise at night without fear. If you do find that exercising at night makes your sleep more fitful, or that you keep putting it off, consider trying a workout first thing in the morning.