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Should I Exercise Before Going to Sleep?

Should I Exercise Before Going to Sleep?

What is the optimal time to exercise? Some people prefer getting their workout out of the way in the morning, and others prefer to wait until after school or work, but did you know that exercise during specific times can be better for you than others? We spoke to HOI’s Dr. James Ting, Sports Medicine physician, to learn about the optimal time to work out and how it can affect your health.

Q: When is the best time of day to exercise?

A: There is still some debate as to the optimal time of day to exercise, but it is generally felt that working out in the morning or afternoon, rather than the evening, may be ideal in regards to sleep. Exercise raises one's core body temperature. The gradual decline in core body temperature that occurs post-exercise helps to trigger drowsiness and facilitate sleep. Exercising in the morning or afternoon will allow that decline in core temperature to occur at night, just in time for bed.

Q: If the only time I have to exercise is shortly before bed, should I work out then? How will that affect my sleep?

A: If working out shortly before bed is the only time available to work out, it is still reasonable to exercise during that time period, so long as it does not negatively impact your sleep. Exercising too late in the evening may not allow enough time for the change in core body temperature to occur and trigger sleep. Additionally, the release of endorphins that occurs with exercise may also negatively impact one's ability to fall asleep following evening exercise if there is not enough time for the associated stimulatory effects to dissipate prior to bedtime.

Q: How can I get better sleep if I’ve just worked out?

A: Sleep quality can be influenced by consistency and routine. Working out at the same time every day, even if it is in the evening, along with anything habitual that you do prior to bed that helps your brain establish that it is time to sleep, such as reading, can also be helpful. Being mindful of, and modifying the type of work out you do before bed can also help with sleep. Exercises that significantly raise your core body temperature such as a vigorous cardio workout may more likely negatively impact sleep than moderate resistance exercises or lighter activities such as yoga. Yoga itself and meditation post-exercise can also be helpful to calm the mind and body to help facilitate sleep. Finally, a hot shower or bath following exercise can facilitate cooling off of the body and speed the drop in core temperature that can help trigger sleep.

Q: Any other tips?

A: Regular, moderate aerobic exercise has been to shown to improve sleep quality, and regular exercise is additionally important in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Even if the only available time to work out is the evening, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is affected the same way by evening exercise as some people may be unaffected, so individuals should monitor their own ability to sleep in relation to the time of day that they work out.