Exercising before bed has become a heated topic in the fitness community. While many people don’t have time to work out at other times during the day or simply like the feeling of exercising before they go to bed, others argue that physical exertion right before going to sleep can affect your sleep patterns and lead to drowsiness and poorer, low-quality rest.
Whether you exercise before bed normally or are wondering whether or not to start, this guide breaks down the pros and cons of exercising before bed so you can get the best picture of what strategy is right for you. We’ll also provide some tips on exercise routines that work best when done at night so you can get your fitness fix at any time of day.
Exercising before you go to bed has both pros and cons. Though some aspects may be more important to you than others, you should consider both sides before you make a decision.
No matter what time of the day you choose to exercise, working out still has a plethora of positive benefits for your body. Planning and sticking to a regular fitness routine has been shown to improve your overall health, as well as lowering the risk of fitness-related ailments like skin disease and brain issues.
Working out as consistently as you can also strengthen your muscles and bones, making your body more adaptable to whatever situations it may face for the rest of your life. Research also links diligent exercise to improved moods and greater weight loss in people who do work out when compared to those who don’t.
It’s clear that exercising is important, regardless of the exact time you choose to get your sweat session in. With that in mind, exercise before bed can be just as beneficial as exercise at any other time of day.
Historically, parents, coaches, and trainers have discouraged people from working out within two hours of their bedtime for fear that the exercise may interfere with their sleep. It’s true that vigorous physical activity does raise your heart rate, adrenaline levels, and awareness -- all great qualities, except if you need to go to sleep quickly.
Exercise before bed, the thinking continued, would prevent you from sleeping properly and lead to sleep deprivation and a host of related health issues. Thankfully, that may not be the case for most people. Studies analyzing the effects of nighttime workouts on sleep in a wide range of participants found that there was no significant change in deep sleep experienced by those who worked out versus those who hadn’t.
In fact, the overall data showed that people who exercised in the evening just before their bedtime actually spent slightly more of their time sleeping in deep sleep -- 21.2%, compared with 19.9% for the control group who refrained from evening exercise before going to bed.
For most people, exercise before bed won’t have a negative impact on your sleep cycles. Depending on the type of exercise you do, you may even find yourself more relaxed and pleasantly tired after an evening workout than you were before. If you’re one of those people, you should feel free to go home and fall straight into bed after finishing your workout -- it’s perfectly healthy.
Ultimately, many people respond to the pros of nighttime exercise differently. While some simply don’t notice a difference no matter what time of day they work out, others love to train after the sun goes down. For many people, exercising before bed may help your mood or simply fits more easily into your routine than any other time of day.
It’s important to remember that any consistent exercise routine is better than nothing at all. You should work out whenever you have the free time and the right mindset to do so, without worrying about the time of day.
It’s true that exercise before bed has little to no impact on sleep for most people. However, every person reacts differently to exercise, and in some cases working out too close to your bedtime may prevent you from sleeping properly.
Depending on the types of workouts you typically perform, you may struggle to fall asleep after a strenuous session. Weight training and intense cardio workouts can spike your heart rate, increase blood flow, and signal your body to begin pumping adrenaline and other hormones.
Most fitness experts also recommend eating a meal with plenty of protein after your workout; the protein stimulates muscle growth and provides your body with material to rebuild the areas you break down through exercise. If you choose to exercise right before bedtime, you may find it difficult to eat a meal and then go to sleep afterward.
Many people also enjoy exercising in the evening because their mornings are busy, or because the exercise allows them to unwind after a taxing day. On the other hand, some people find it easier to push off evening exercise depending on the stresses and tasks of their workday.
If you work a particularly busy job or don’t have a set schedule every day, working out in the morning may be a better choice for you. Getting your training out of the way early will prevent you from putting it off when work strikes and can put you in a better mindset to take on the tasks of the office.
Some workouts have also been proven to promote better sleep when done early in the morning. The National Sleep Foundation found that cardio training sessions could increase the quantity of your deep sleep when done in the early morning.
If you’re looking to get some exercise before bed but don’t want to risk getting too sweaty or harming your sleep, there are a few different methods you can try. These exercise strategies work great for getting you the benefits of a workout but without some of the side effects so you can rest easy.
Yoga is a great fitness option no matter the time of day, but it can work particularly well as an exercise method before bed. Performing a complement of yoga exercises as part of your nighttime routine can promote flexibility and mindfulness while putting you in a calm, relaxed state as you prepare to go to sleep.
To start out, try some classic yoga positions like “downward dog,” “warrior,” and “tree.” Pairing your yoga routine with some reading or meditation can also help clear the events of the day from your mind and prepare you to fall asleep more quickly after you turn out the lights.
If you struggle with the complex yoga positions but still want to reap the benefits of flexibility and relaxation, you can also try more standard stretching before you go to bed. Like yoga, this is a great way to focus your thoughts and clear your head with a set routine before you fall asleep.
As you stretch, make sure to work muscles from all across your body. Start with standing exercises like touching your toes and stretching your hamstrings, and work to seated stretches like the butterfly stretch and quad stretches. Incorporating a foam roller or ball can add a massage element to your stretch routine.
You can do a wide variety of different Pilates exercises before going to sleep -- but for the best options, it’s a good idea to look to Joseph Pilates’ own recommendations. Pilates, who addressed sleep in his writings on fitness, advocated for spinal stretching exercises before bed as a way to promote relaxation of both body and mind.
Classic Pilates movements like the wall roll down and spine stretch are great to do before going to bed. Both stretch out your spine by extending your back and strengthening your core.
Like yoga and athletic stretching, these Pilates stretches require no additional equipment and can be performed in the comfort of your room. Their slow and controlled nature helps you naturally wind down from a busy day and can calm your mind as well as your body. Using mindfulness techniques in concert with Pilates stretches is a great strategy.
Exercise can take on many different forms, which often vary widely from person to person. Whether or not you choose to exercise before bed, make sure you get a good sweat going at some point during the day. We hope our guide to whether or not it’s a good idea to exercise before bed has helped you make a decision with your own exercise habits.
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