You know that breaking a sweat is good for your heart, your mind and your waistline. But it can also help you catch more Z’s. According to a poll from The National Sleep Foundation, 83% of vigorous exercisers said they snooze well compared to just 56% of non-exercisers. “Activity promotes healthy levels of many hormones and other chemicals in the body, which in turn may promote healthy sleep,” explains Michael Grandner, PhD, MTR, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
So when should you workout? Experts used to believe that doing so too close to tuck-in-time could affect your sleep. Today, they refute that. “Some recent research suggests that exercising before bed does not impact sleep as much as we once thought it would,” explains Fitbit Sleep Advisor Allison T. Siebern, PhD, consulting assistant professor at Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center and director of the Sleep Health Integrative Program at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in North Carolina. “It really depends on the person.” Instead, the best time to sweat is what works well with your schedule. After all, in our go-go-go world, “we get so little opportunity that the benefits of exercise almost always outweigh the negative effects of doing it at less than optimal times,” explains Grandner.
How can you sync your sweat sessions and your sleep? Read on…
Find YOUR optimal workout time
If your schedule allows you to choose between morning or night, ask yourself if you’re a morning person or a night owl. Then, pay attention to how you sleep when you exercise in the AM or PM and see if one is more alerting than others. “If it takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, then dial your exercise back. Otherwise, you are OK,” says Grandner.
Don’t over do it
Most of us think if a little of something is good, more is better. But that’s not the case when it comes to working out and snoozing. “People who do more than an hour of vigorous activity (the kind that makes you really sweat) every day do tend to report more sleep problems, so that may be too much of a good thing,” explains Grandner. Instead, keep your workout to an hour and/or do it at a more moderate intensity.
Land in Lotus Pose
“Our study showed that people who get a lot of their activity from yoga were more likely to get 7-8 hours of sleep than people who get no activity and even more than people who get most of their activity from walking,” explains Grandner. Experts suspect it may be yoga’s mind-mellowing effects that result in better sleep or its deep breathing techniques. “Tension is a signal to your brain to be on alert ( a fight or flight response) and this can override your sense of sleepiness,” explains Siebern. “When one is in a more relaxed state, this sense of sleepiness is not masked as much.”
Give yourself some time to chill
Although exercising at night won’t keep you up, you should “allow for a window of time – about 30-60 mins – prior to bed to wind down with a more relaxing activity,” says Siebern. This can include reading a book, meditating, taking a bath or pretty much anything that calms your body. It’s also important to give your mind a time-out so jot down your worries and To Do’s to get them out of your head before you turn in.
Of course, it’s key to stay hydrated while you break a sweat. But be aware that excess water before bed can lead to midnight trips to the bathroom, says Grandner. Also, though you may want a post-workout snack, make sure it’s a light one. A snack before bed can be a good thing, but heavy meals and too many calories can make it harder to fall asleep, cautions Grandner.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.