It’s no secret that regular exercise has many health benefits, like building strength, lifting your mood, improving health conditions and helping you sleep better. Exercise is a huge component of good sleep hygiene (opens in new tab), as it encourages your body to relax and recover, while also improving your sleep duration and quality.
There’s an ongoing conversation between experts about the best time of day you should exercise in order for it to be the most beneficial and least disruptive to your sleep patterns. Some people are morning exercisers while others prefer to get a workout in when they get home from work. If you’re in the latter group (like me), when you exercise and what you’re doing can be the reason you’re getting an amazing or terrible night’s sleep.
So, when’s the best time to exercise before bed? Are some workouts better than others for optimal sleep? And can a quick HIIT session help or hurt my sleeping patterns? Keep reading to find out.
P.S. Regardless of when or how you workout, it’s important to have the best mattress (opens in new tab) to sleep on, so you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
What time should I exercise before bed?
There are many debates around whether exercising before bed helps or hurts your sleep. Older studies suggest that hitting the gym before bed makes it harder for you to fall asleep at night but newer studies have disputed this claim, stating that exercising at night actually does the exact opposite.
According to Healthline (opens in new tab), studies have shown that exercising up to 90 minutes before bed has little to no effect on sleep. In a European Journal of Sports Science study (opens in new tab) that was conducted in 2020, participants did 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises and went to sleep 90 minutes after finishing their workout. By measuring core body temperature and sleep quality, the research determined that evening workouts didn’t affect sleep quality or the ability for the participants to fall asleep.
However, research that was reported in the Huffington Post (opens in new tab) found that people who did HIIT or vigorous training an hour before bed experienced bad sleep quality. So, the debate continues!
Overall, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the best time to exercise, but research suggests that if you prefer to exercise in the evening, you should do so at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This is because when you exercise, your heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure goes up. As we get ready for bed, these factors should drop or get slower, so having this spike and not cooling down before you hit the sheets can take your mind and body longer to switch off and relax.
What type of exercise should I do before bed?
If you’re working out before bed, it’s important to consider what exercises you’re doing and if it can affect your sleep schedule. For those leaving 2-3 hours between exercising and going to sleep, you can choose from a variety of activities but as you approach your bedtime, you should tone down the intensity.
For vigorous exercises like running, HIIT training, weights or any cardio workout, try to schedule these for the early evening. This level of intensity means you’ll get a good workout in and have at least 2-3 hours to wind down and relax before getting in bed. This type of exercise will also leave you feeling sleepy which results in you falling asleep faster. It’s suggested that you should do at least 30 minutes of exercise to feel the benefits and improve your sleep health.
For those who’d prefer to workout an hour or 90 minutes before bed, light to moderate exercise is recommended so as not to disrupt your sleep. Walking, stretching and yoga are the best options, as they get you moving but also create a sense of calm and relaxation. Stick to 15 minutes of exercise so you don’t get your heart rate or temperature too high.