Sleep researchers agree that exercise helps you sleep. However, popular knowledge has suggested that exercising too close to bedtime is bad for sleep, keeping you awake longer. Here’s the argument for why exercising too close to bedtime can disturb your sleep:
- At night, your body temperature lowers slightly signaling to your body that it is time for sleep.
- Exercise, especially vigorous exercise, raises your body’s temperature by a couple degrees and it stays elevated for up to 5 hours after you exercise. This may interrupt the natural signal of your body lowering its temperature before bed.
- Exercise also promotes the release of adrenaline in your brain, keeping your mind and body activated, and making it harder to sleep.
- Vigorous exercise can make it difficult to relax and wind-down before bed.
Does the science support this argument? Unfortunately, the evidence is not clear. One 2011 study suggested that vigorous exercise before bed had no impact on sleep. Additionally, in a large national poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, moderate to vigorous exercisers reported no difference in sleep even when they exercised close to bedtime. On the other hand, a 2013 study found that exercise before bed disrupted the onset of sleep.
While the evidence is mixed on whether exercise before bedtime is bad for you, it is very clear that exercise at any time of the day will help you sleep. Many sleep experts still recommend that you try not to exercise too close to bedtime, but you know your body best. If you know that exercising before bed doesn’t affect your sleep – keep doing that. However, if you are having trouble sleeping and you exercise within a couple hours of bedtime, experiment with exercising earlier in your day!