Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means prioritizing exercise and sleep. Exercising on a regular basis can improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and give you more energy during waking hours.
Exercise can lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which may disrupt deep sleep and shorten sleep time.
It also increases endorphins, which lift your mood and help you relax. These, in turn, help you sleep better at night. Think about it. Being anxious and tense can prevent you from falling asleep when you need to.
Regular exercise also makes you more alert when you're awake, letting you do more. This will help you fall asleep faster in the evening.
That said, endorphins and alertness can also have the opposite effect. That’s why it’s important to exercise at the right time before bed to reap their sleep benefits.
Let’s talk about that in the next section.
How long before bed should I exercise?
In general, exercising at least 4 hours before going to bed is ideal if you want to sleep better, although the optimal time may vary based on individual preferences and needs.
Harvard Health Publishing says that exercising at least an hour before bed won’t hurt your sleep(1). This, according to a 2018 study featured in Sports Medicine.
It found that exercising helps people fall asleep faster and deeper. But (and a big one) people that do high-intensity workouts experienced the opposite. This shows that the type of exercise you do before bed matters.
Exercising when you get out of bed in the morning may help you sleep better in the evening. When you wake up, your body's cortisol levels are at their highest, which is known as the cortisol awakening response. Cortisol enhances your body's ability to rest and recover, as long as it’s in the right amounts.
💡 Key Takeaway: Exercising before bed help lowers stress hormone levels and increase endorphins, which promote relaxation. This makes it easier to drift and stay in deep sleep for longer. Make sure not to exercise too close to bedtime.
Types of Exercises Before Bed
So now that you know how to time your workout before bed. It’s time to learn what exercise types are best and their benefits.
Aerobic exercises such as walking or jogging are a good way to increase your heart rate and burn calories.
These can help reduce stress levels and provide a calming effect, which makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
Aerobic exercise also helps release endorphins which act as natural painkillers and mood enhancers so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.
Strength Training Exercises
Strength training exercises like weight lifting are other options. These may help improve sleep quality if done on a regular basis.
Resistance training exercises may help lower the risk of depression and anxiety. These two conditions put you at risk for insomnia.
Other examples of strength training include climbing stairs, using resistance bands, squats and push-ups.
Stretching is an important part of any workout routine. It's an exercise you can do closer to bedtime. According to SleepScore Labs, experts advise stretching 5 to 30 minutes before bedtime(3).
Stretching is beneficial for both your physical and mental well-being. It can help clear your mind, ease stress and relax any tense muscles. When done before bedtime, it helps improve sleep quality.
Yoga is a popular form of exercise because of its health benefits. It improves balance, coordination, breathing control and relaxation. This makes it ideal as a pre-bedtime workout.
It’ll help you achieve a state of deep relaxation. And it's a healthy replacement for watching TV or scrolling through social media. Both of these affect sleep by stimulating the brain and exposing you to blue light.
Related to this is meditation. It involves focusing on breathing patterns, positive affirmations and visualizations. These calm both your mind and body, allowing you to drift off faster.
Other Relaxation Techniques
If you want to exercise right before bedtime, find an activity that’ll help you relax without overstimulating your mind and body. That’s why low-intensity activities such as yoga or stretching are great options.
Apart from yoga, incorporate relaxing activities into your pre-bedtime routine. Examples are meditation, taking a warm bath, reading and listening to soothing music. These can help you relax and wind down for bed.
Next, we’ll discuss how and why sex can improve sleep.
💡 Key Takeaway: Exercising before bedtime like as aerobics, strength training, stretching and yoga can help improve sleep quality. It can reduce stress levels for a more restful night. Pair this with other relaxation techniques like meditation before bed for better sleep quality.
Does sex help improve sleep?
Sex is also a form of physical activity, which lowers cortisol levels. And as we mentioned earlier, the effects are falling asleep faster and remaining in deep sleep longer.
According to Sleep Foundation, an orgasm can trigger the release of oxytocin and prolactin. These hormones make you feel happy and relaxed, which may lead to better sleep(2).
Tips for Exercising Before Bed
It’s important to pay attention to how your body responds to exercise before bed. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
Listen carefully to your body's signals about how your exercise routine is affecting your sleep. And make the necessary adjustments to time and workout intensity.
If you want to exercise closer to bedtime, choose low-intensity, relaxing exercises like yoga and stretching. Avoid high-intensity workouts close to bedtime since they can energize you and make it hard to drift off.
Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, depending on their lifestyle and health status. Be mindful of yours when you’re planning an exercise routine. Make sure that it’ll complement your sleep quality and duration.
For instance, if you work the night shift then you may benefit more from yoga over running on a treadmill. It can be challenging to wind down when there’s so much daytime activity around you. And yoga requires less energy and can relax instead of raising your energy levels.
Another tip is for when you’re super anxious or stressed during the day. It might be wiser to skip the exercise and focus on relaxing. Use the other relaxation techniques we mentioned earlier: meditation, a warm bath, reading or listening to music that soothes.
Once you’re ready to sleep, make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Invest in an excellent sleep mask and a good cooling system. If you live in a noisy area, a pair of earplugs should do the trick.
Exercising Before Bed: What Not to Do
Now let's take a look at some common mistakes to avoid when exercising before bed.
Doing too much intense exercise too close to bedtime is can make falling asleep more difficult. High-intensity workouts should be done at least 4 hours before going to sleep or earlier in the day. Give your body time to wind down and relax.
Not allowing enough time between exercising and going to bed is another common no-no. It’s best to wait at least an hour after finishing your workout before you try and go to sleep. This will give your time to cool down from the physical activity and get into a relaxed state.
Remember that exercise increases the body’s core temperature, which naturally drops during the night as part of our circadian rhythm. This drop in temperature signals our bodies that it’s time to hit the sack.
💡 Key Takeaway: Pay attention to what your body tells you when you exercise before bed and adjust the intensity and time of your workout accordingly. In general, avoid high-intensity workouts too close to bedtime. And wait at least an hour after exercise before you hit the sack.
Common Questions About Exercising Before Bed
Read the answers to these questions for a quick summary of this article so far.
What are the benefits of exercising before bed?
Exercising before bed can benefit those struggling with sleep issues. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can lead to improved sleep quality.
Exercise also releases endorphins and other hormones that will help you feel more rested when you wake up.
Finally, exercising before bed may help improve overall energy levels throughout the day due to a better night's rest.
Is it better to do a light or intense workout before bed?
In general, it’s better to do a light workout closer to bedtime like stretching or yoga. Intense workouts can heighten your body temperature and alertness levels. These can make it harder to fall asleep.
Light exercise helps relax the body and mind, allowing for a better night's sleep. Plus, it triggers the release of endorphins, which help reduce stress levels and improve overall mood.
Are there any exercises that should be avoided close to bedtime?
Yes. Avoid high-intensity workouts that can raise your body temperature and stimulate the release of hormones like cortisol. This can interfere with sleep cycles and cause sleep awakenings throughout the night.
Does exercising before bed help with insomnia and sleep quality?
Yes, exercising before bed can help with insomnia and sleep quality. Exercise increases the body's production of hormones that reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Exercising before bed can have a positive impact on your sleep quality when done right. Otherwise, it can have the opposite effect and make it harder to fall asleep.
Get your exercise routine down and don’t schedule it too close to bedtime. Unless it’s light stretching or yoga. You may also want to exercise first thing in the morning. It’s the optimal time for getting the most out of exercise when it comes to sleep.
And don’t forget to let us know if reading this article helps you optimize your exercise routine for better zzzs. Drop a comment below.
(1) “Does exercising at night affect sleep?” Harvard Health Publishing, www.sleepadvisor.org/zero-gravity-sleep-position-benefits/. Accessed 21 April 2023.
(2) “The Relationship Between Sex and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/sex-sleep. Accessed 21 April 2023.
(3) “What Are the Best Stretches to Do Before Bed?” SleepScore Labs, www.sleepscore.com/blog/stretches-for-sleep/. Accessed 21 April 2023.
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