The opinions about exercising right before sleep differ. On one hand, some experts claim that exercise promotes sleep by helping us fall asleep faster. Others counter that exercise makes it harder for us to fall asleep by increasing our heart rate and making it harder for us to reach the state of relaxation required for deep and restorative sleep.
In this article, we’ll answer all the important questions about exercise before sleep. In particular, we’ll clarify which activities are suitable before bedtime and how far apart you should space exercise and sleep.
Is it healthy to exercise before going to sleep?
For a long time, the myth that exercise in the evening had a negative effect on our sleep was widespread. However, a study conducted by the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport at the ETH Zurich shows that this is not always the case. Moderate exercise actually promotes sleep in a positive way.
The study showed that subjects who exercised in the evening spent more time in the deep sleep phase than others. While we sleep, we normally go through five sleep phases in which different mental and physical processes take place. Our bodies achieve the greatest recovery in the deep sleep phase, as our muscles and brain are completely relaxed and our breathing slows down during this time.
The deep sleep phase is also the time when our body regenerates, so it is essential for our health. The longer the deep sleep phase lasts, the more rested we wake up the next day.
Is it good to exercise in the evening?
Regular exercise is essential to maintain or improve our health. Adults should do about 150 to 300 minutes of medium-intensity cardiovascular or endurance exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity exercise. In addition, muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed two to several days a week, whereby all major muscle groups are targeted.
Cardiovascular or endurance exercise refers to those that involve moving the body for an extended period of time, such as running, cycling, dancing, swimming, and playing basketball. Strength training refers to exercises that work the muscles. These exercises use your own body weight, weights, or other equipment as resistance.
We don't always have the time or motivation to exercise in the morning. The good news is that exercise sessions can easily be shifted to the evening hours. Although it’s best to give yourself a bit of time to rest before going to bed after working out, even moderate exercise that ends just half an hour before your bedtime shouldn’t negatively affect your sleep.
How long should I refrain from exercise before going to sleep?
You should give yourself at least one, preferably two, hours to wind down after your workout before going to bed. In the evenings, you should stick to moderate exercise and avoid training that’s too intense.
Of course, everyone is different and it’s best to try out for yourself what’s right for your own body. If you finish your training sessions right before going to bed and don’t have any problems, go ahead and continue doing what you’re doing. If, however, you notice that you have a hard time falling asleep, then you should shift your exercise routine to the early evening or afternoon.
What about intensive training?
Every person has a biorhythm, which is often referred to as one’s internal clock. This biorhythm also affects our sleep quality. Can exercising before going to sleep improve our sleep quality? And how intense should these training sessions be?
Not only our body, but also our muscles have a biorhythm, which means that the time at which we train has an effect on our body. As such, it’s best to exercise when it’s still light out if you’re training to improve your performance and not just to burn calories. This is caused by special proteins in the body that activate our metabolism. These work most intensively when we are most awake, which is why a workout around noon is so advantageous.
Our strength level, however, is somewhat different - it’s actually rather weak in the morning and increases throughout the course of the day. In the evening, our strength level reaches its peak and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower in the evening, which allows is to build muscle faster.
However, there are also arguments against engaging in intense workouts in the evening. A study by Appalachian State University, for example, found that working out in the morning noticeably improved their participants’ sleep quality. The results of their study showed that working out in the evening, however, disrupted the participants’ healthy sleep rhythm and, in the worst case, led to their developing sleep disorders.
What type of exercise before sleep?
Moderate exercise can have a positive effect on our sleep and can therefore be practised in the evening. Too intensive training, on the other hand, should best be avoided in the late evening. Yoga and other stretching exercises are ideal to wind down and get yourself in the mood to sleep after a stressful day. We’ve put together a few exercises for you that you can try out in the evening to stay fit.
Planches are a great bodyweight exercise. The planche or plank works a particularly large number of muscle groups and are thus an effective whole-body exercise. The plank position can be performed in different variations and should be repeated at least three times and held for 40 seconds.
Squats are particularly effective at toning the legs and buttocks. In addition, they require very little space to do and can be done comfortably in front of your bed. It’s best to do 100 squats per day. However, you can start with fewer repetitions at first, especially if you’re new to this movement.
The Sphinx Position
With this position, you strengthen your spine and lower abdomen. It also promotes good blood circulation. To assume the position, you should first lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor. Then, extend your hands downward and raise your upper body. Perform light breathing exercises in this position.
Zizzz products for better sleep
While exercise can improve sleep quality, your sleep environment also plays a crucial role. To help you get a good night’s sleep, we offer duvets made from natural and breathable materials.
With Zizzz, you can choose between goose down duvets, duck down duvets and wool duvets. Of course, we also offer children's duvets made of virgin wool and organic cotton, which are available in two different sizes.
Light or moderate exercise before sleep improves health and has a positive effect on sleep quality. Moderate exercise can be done in the evening, though intensive training is better avoided just before bedtime, as it can upset your sleep rhythm. If, in addition to exercise, you also pay attention to the right sleeping environment, you can create the best conditions for a good night's sleep.