You may have heard the common adage that exercising before bed negatively impacts the quality of sleep. Perhaps you have even used it as an excuse to avoid those post-work exercise sessions.
Recent studies, however, suggest that this common notion may not be entirely accurate. Exercise at any time during the day may contribute positively to the quality of sleep.
The belief that exercising before bed negatively impacts sleep comes from the physical reactions that occur in the body in response to exercise. The three responses that tend to be associated with poor sleep are increased heart rate, increased core body temperature, and the production and release of adrenaline in the body.
All of these physical responses are contrary to the conditions that the body has to reach in order to fall asleep. The increased heart rate tends to wake you up and energize you, but heart rates need to be low and the body relaxed in order to fall asleep. The increased core body temperature produced as a result of the increased energy is the opposite of the necessary decrease in body temperature that is required to fall asleep. The adrenaline that the body produces also energizes the body and could impede sleep.
It seems as though these three physical responses to exercise would make it difficult to fall asleep and negatively impact the quality of sleep once it is achieved. Recent studies, however, have suggested that this is not necessarily the case. Although some people may experience sleep issues after exercise, most people will not have trouble falling asleep. The key is to understand your own body and find a routine that works best for your body.
Exercise, in general, will contribute to a good night’s sleep, but recent studies have suggested that this benefit may be achieved regardless of what time of day you exercise. Whether you are up crowing with the roosters in the morning or hooting with the owls at night, exercise can contribute to a more restful sleep.
The only discernible difference in sleep quality between participants in the study is between those who did not exercise at all during the day compared with those that did. According to the findings in the study, exercise in the evening may actually improve sleep, contrary to popular opinion.
The one exception to this conclusion is high-intensity training like interval training that is conducted very close to bedtime. The intensity of the exercise and the resulting physical responses may, in fact, adversely affect sleep if done too closely before going to bed.
With these findings, there is no longer an excuse for skipping evening workouts, and those who like to run under the stars can sleep soundly knowing they will, well, sleep soundly.