The pros and cons of exercise before you sleep

We all know that exercise and getting a proper night’s sleep is good for us. Getting regular exercise can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

It’s also true that a bad night’s sleep can really mess around with our exercise routine. One study showed that people who didn’t sleep well cut the amount of time they spent exercising.

The relationship of sleep and exercise is ‘bidirectional’. One influences the other.

Choosing the right time of day to exercise can depend on a whole lot of factors. Making a daily habit of it is the most important thing, but if you’re someone who tends to exercise at night, there are some pros and cons.

The advantages of exercising at night

  • It fits in better with your routine

Some people find they’re busy from the moment they get up in the morning. Perhaps they start work early or prefer to get stuck into their day as soon as they wake-up. They use exercise as their ‘downtime’ later in the day.

Some are busy managing family duties during the day. It’s only at night when the kids have gone to bed, that they get the time to themselves and can squeeze in exercise. Whatever the case, it’s important to fit in exercise where you can.

  • It works better for night owls

Some people simply find it hard to get up in the morning. They would rather invest in a sleep-in than an early run or work-out at the gym. Though everyone should aim at getting lots of sleep and physical activity, experts say it’s better for your overall health to get at least seven hours sleep every night. 

  • Exercise can help shake off stress

Angry with the boss? Had some difficult clients? After a stressful day at work, a hard work-out can help get rid of all that built-up stress.

The disadvantages of exercising at night

  • Exercising before bedtime can sabotage your sleep

Most people find that ‘winding-down’ is the best way to prepare for bedtime. Sleep experts recommend activities like reading a book, having a warm bath or playing some soothing music.

Exercise raises your body temperature and your heart rate, which may not be conducive to sleeping.

The other trouble with evening exercise is that you tend to eat late, after your workout. Some sleep experts say that having a heavy meal after 8pm can interfere with quality sleep.

  • You’re missing out on making a good start for your day

Doing exercise first thing in the morning helps increase your focus on the next activity. You feel fresher, ready to tackle the day.

  • ‘Couch potato’ syndrome

Ever had good intentions to go to the gym after work but instead you went home and crashed out on the lounge? We’ve all been there. By leaving your exercise until the evening you risk making excuses and missing it altogether.

A final word on sleep and exercise

There’s still a lot to learn about the relationship between sleep and exercise. Sleep expert, Dr Charles A. Czeisler of Harvard Medical School, believes there’s little evidence that supports an adverse impact from evening exercise. Based on his work with athletes, he believes that regular exercise, no matter what time of day it is, increases the quality of your sleep.