Ask most people, and they’ll tell you it’s better to work out first thing in the morning. That way you’ll get it done before other things interfere. Plus, it’s a good way to “wake up” and get the blood flowing to your body and brain. But not everyone has the motivation to roll out of bed and onto an exercise mat or treadmill. This is especially true if you’re not a “morning person.” Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t work out in the evening, because it will interfere with sleep. Is there any truth to this idea?
Do Night Workouts Interfere With Sleep?
Some people don’t work out in the evening, because they think it will make it hard for them to drift off to sleep at night. During exercise, your body releases hormones like norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol that hype you up and make you more alert. Theoretically, this could make it more difficult to sleep since these hormones hang out in your system for several hours. But exercising closer to bedtime may not interfere with sleep as much as you might think.
In one study, researchers had a group of young adults exercise at a moderate intensity for an hour. They exercised either 90 minutes before bedtime or 30 minutes before heading off to bed. In both cases, exercise didn’t interfere with their ability to fall asleep or cause them to awaken more frequently. They slept just as soundly as if they hadn’t exercised.
Exercising in the evening may not make it difficult for most people to fall asleep, but if you suffer from insomnia, exercising at night could make the problem worse. When you work out you raise your core body temperature, which could negatively impact sleep if you’re prone towards insomnia.
The type of exercise you do may play a role too. A pleasure walk, a yoga workout or a relaxing stretch could be sleep-inducing, whereas a fast run or a high-intensity interval workout might keep you awake.
Working Out at Night Probably Affects Each Person Differently
If you’re a night person, you may feel most comfortable working out after dinner. There are advantages to exercising later in the day. Your muscles are usually suppler as the day goes on, and this may allow you to push yourself harder. If you go to the gym to exercise, you’re less likely to have to compete with people for machines after dinner. Exercising at night also keeps you away from the television where you could munch out on the wrong foods.
The best way to find out if exercising in the evening works for you is to try it for a week and see if it makes it harder for you to fall asleep. If possible, exercise at least 3 hours before your scheduled bedtime. After your workout, take a warm shower or soak in a warm tub to unwind before falling asleep.
Many people find working out in the evening melts away the stresses of the day and helps them unwind. On the other hand, if exercise keeps you from sleeping, it could make it harder to stay in shape. Research shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to weight gain.
Morning or evening? There are advantages to both. Find out what works for you, and do it.
MSNBC. “Is Exercising at Night Really So Bad?”