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The quality of sleep you get can determine the amount of energy and motivation you have the next day. Without proper rest, a good workout can seem impossible.

While a good night’s sleep can help you stay energized through your workout, sleep, and exercise can also influence one another differently.

Exercise can contribute to better sleep because physical activity during the day increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep at night. Deep sleep is the phase in sleep cycles that is restorative. The benefits of deep sleep include boosting immune function, regulating hormones, and controlling stress and anxiety.

A healthy workout can help you drift off to a sound sleep at night. While exercise has many health benefits and can help you sleep better, the time of day you workout can influence your sleeping patterns.


When should you exercise for better sleep?

The timeframe in which you choose to exercise can influence the quality of your sleep. Experts have debated over the theory that working out before rest can hurt your ability to fall asleep.

The traditional thinking has been that if you exercise close to your bedtime, your body will heat up, and the adrenaline rush would make it difficult to fall asleep right away (1).

While we generally feel tired after a workout, your muscles might feel tired, but you won’t feel necessarily feel sleepy.

On the other hand, a study conducted in 2018 by Sports Medicine indicated that the opposite might be right. Amount participates, those that have an evening exercise noted that it helped them fall asleep faster. However, this depended on the type and intensity of the workout.

For example, in the same study, those that completed a vigorous workout less than an hour before bed reported having a harder time falling asleep.

With this data, ideally, it would be best to have a three-hour buffer between working out and going to bed. If you have an intense workout planned like HIIT or fast running, aim for an early evening workout, so you have a good time buffer before you go to bed.

As a summary, keep these two points in mind when you plan your workouts:

  • Vigorous and Aerobic workouts cause your body to release endorphins. These can cause some people to have a harder time falling asleep. High-intensity exercise also increases body temperature, heart rate, and adrenaline, which can also increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Complete intense workouts at least three hours before bedtime for the best sleep. It takes about 30 to 90 minutes for your core body temperature to fall and help facilitate sleep.


What time of day should you workout for better sleep?

Morning workouts are a great choice if your schedule allows for time in the mornings.

One of the best times of day for a workout is early afternoon, but this might not be feasible for all schedules if you are working a full-time job.

If you have no choice but to workout before bed, then the best thing to do would be to allow some time to window and relax.

The best way to do this might be to add calming stretched before bed or meditation. The goal is to relax your body and mind, especially if you had an intense workout.

Adding meditation or calming stretches can help to relax your body, which in term lowers your heart rate and enables you to prepare for sleep.


What type of exercise is best for deep sleep?

The timing of the exercise is crucial to determining the quality of sleep. There has not been any definitive research on what type of workout would help the most with sleep quality. Research suggests that benefits are possible from both resistance, cardio, and stretching (2).

The timing of the workout can have a definite impact on sleep quality.

  • A high-intensity workout close to bedtime increases your heart rate, adrenaline, and body temperature. All of which can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • A low-intensity workout like light Yoga and stretching should be acceptable before bedtime. A relaxing and therapeutic Yoga flow can help to relax your mind and body in preparation for sleep. Save the power sequences for mornings.


How much exercise you need for better sleep?

Now that we have a better idea of when to exercise and what type of workouts recommended for better sleep, the remaining question is how much exercise is right?

There is no right answer to this question, and it will vary from person to person. For a general guideline, the National Institute for Health recommends at least 150 minutes a week for healthy adults.

If you exercise five times a week, this works out to be about 30 minutes a day. Thirty minutes a day is a great place to start and build a routine that can improve your sleep quality.

On the other hand, there is a possibility of too much exercise that can have adverse effects on sleep quality. This is a problem that is seen among athletes that overtrain and workout the body too much. A common symptom of overtraining is insomnia.


Featured image photo credit: Vladislav Muslakov

February 6, 2021
February 6, 2021

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