Health & Fitness, Fitness & diet

Fact or Fiction? Doing Exercise at Night Prevents Sleep

The idea that doing exercise in the evening could delay sleep is often repeated in the media. However, many athletes with a busy schedule can only train at the end of the day, after work. Should you train in the evening or not, are there any activities that prevent you from sleeping and what are the right habits to adopt? Let’s take stock of the issue based on recent scientific data.

The Links Between Athletic Activity and Sleep

The idea that doing exercise prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep is linked to the impact of exertion on the body:

  • The body temperature increases, whereas it should decrease to sleep. This is the main link between physical activity and a possible delay in falling asleep.
  • The production of dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline is stimulated. The effects of these molecules are far from the calm state conducive to sleep: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, dilation of the pupils, alertness, etc.
  • On the other hand, endorphins are released during physical activity, causing a state of relaxation that could help you fall asleep.

While all scientists agree that exercise has beneficial effects on the quality of sleep in the long term, opinions are divided as to whether or not it’s a good idea to exercise shortly before bedtime.

So, Exercise or Rest in the Evening After 5 pm?

Some health professionals recommend avoiding training after 5 pm or less than 4 hours before bedtime. Are these precautions taken in the absence of reliable data, or are they real effects that exercising in the evening could have on sleep?

Muscular power seems to be at its peak around 5 pm, a time that chrono-biologists believe is also the best for losing calories. World records and other spectacular performances are often achieved between 6 and 8 pm. Doing exercises in the evening could, therefore, be a good idea from the point of view of sporting performance.

As far as sleep is concerned, there is growing evidence that physical activity in the evening is not bad:

  • According to a 2011 study, exercising in the evening could improve the quality of sleep in healthy young sleepers.
  • Sleep in America, a large-scale survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2013, confirms the fact that exercising in the evening was not discouraged as there was no significant difference in the experience of athletes who worked out in the evening and those who did not.
  • In 2018, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich compared 23 studies on the subject and concluded that provided that no intense exercise was undertaken less than an hour before going to sleep, exercising in the evening was more likely to have positive effects on the health of the participants.
  • Even intense exercise can be undertaken in the early evening without adversely affecting sleep duration or arousal index, according to a February 2019 study that investigated the links between high-intensity interval training activity in the evening, energy intake and hormone secretions.

Many recent research studies, therefore, agree that it is feasible to exercise in the evening if you observe a cool-down period before bedtime. Taking a warm shower can help to lower the body temperature after the session. Of course, everybody reacts differently, so trust your instincts. In any case, exercising offers so many health benefits that it would be a shame to go without it.

Workout Ideas for Sleeping Well

Now that you know that you can exercise at any time of the day, all you have to do is choose workouts that help you sleep well. With the iFit® library, you’ll never run out of ideas for evening workouts that fit your requirements and your body clock:

  • Want to be lulled to sleep by tales of the Highlands or learn about Shanghai before bed? Schedule a quiet session on your Incline Trainer or elliptical by choosing one of the cultural tours from the iFit® library.
  • For a sunset bike ride, try the Mindfulness & Self-Compassion Bike Series audio sessions, which are ideal for improving sleep and feeling calm.
  • The Walk in the Park series gives you access to 12 relaxing walks in the heart of the world’s most beautiful parks to try out from your elliptical bike!

Check out our Health & Fitness page for more advice.