Do Nighttime Workouts Mess With Your Sleep Cycle?

Our day-to-day activities often keep us so busy that many find it hard to make the time to get their workouts in during the day. Whether it's due to lack of time because of short lunch hours, or lack of facilities for showering afterward, working out during the day is difficult. Because of this, many of us who are interested in keeping exercise in our routines feel like we have to wait until most of our daytime responsibilities are over. This moves our workout times closer to bedtime, making winding down a challenge.


It is well known that regular exercise is vitally important, but many people wonder whether or not it's beneficial to wait until right before bedtime (via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Not only is it hard to stay motivated until nighttime, but the question about whether or not working out at night affects the quality of our sleep is a common one. Is this just another fitness myth, or is there some truth to the claim that working out before bed ruins your sleep cycle?

What to know about working out at night

For the most part, exercise can actually help our sleep. Valley Sleep Center says that exercise not only helps you fall asleep more quickly but it can help you stay asleep for longer. In addition, a proper exercise routine will help combat certain sleep disorders and the effects that come from them. While it was traditionally thought that working out before bedtime affected the quality of your sleep, researchers are finding slightly different information now. While it is recommended that you choose a lower impact exercise right before bed, it has been found that most workouts before bed will not negatively affect your sleep, per WebMD.


However, if you are waiting to workout at a high intensity level until right before bed, it may be more difficult fall asleep. A 2019 meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine found that exercise completed more than 30 minutes before bedtime didn't have a negative effect on sleep, but vigorous exercise like running completed less than 30 minutes before bed made it difficult for participants to fall asleep. For the most part, experts recommend completing your workout 90 minutes before you try to fall asleep and keeping a relaxing bed time routine to help with falling asleep (via Healthline). 

Tips for a good night's sleep

Most experts agree that light exercise before bed can actually help you sleep better. Shape agrees that workouts that raise your heart rate and push your endurance before sleep may not be advisable. Rather, those who have to wait to exercise should consider low-intensity workouts. Yoga moves in particular, like child's pose, threading the needle, and cat or cow, can help you bring your anxiety level down and your relaxation level up before bed. You could also try planking or stretching. Other ways to stimulate sleep after working out are to turn off devices at least 15 minutes before bed, make sure your room is dark, and prepare your bed so it's comfortable (via Harvard Medical School).


In general, moving your exercise time to nighttime is still beneficial for you. Just make sure it's low impact and it is completed about 60 to 90 minutes before bed. You can still enjoy both the benefits that come from an active lifestyle, and the peace that comes from a full night of sleep.