Corporate wellness insights

Evening Exercise and Sleep: Advice from a Health Coach

Posted by Colleen Sideck, MPH, RDN on 12.17.2018

When starting an exercise routine, there are many things to consider. You need to think about what type of exercise to do and how long and how often you want to do it. You need to choose activities that you enjoy and can fit into your schedule. And it turns out that you also might want to consider how exercise impacts your sleep habits before you start up an evening exercise routine.

Why Evening Exercise Can Affect Sleep

During strenuous exercise, body temperature increases and the brain is stimulated, making us feel alert and energized. These effects can continue for up to four or five hours following your workout. This is great during the day when you’re trying to stay awake and focused, but it can be problematic if you’re trying to relax and fall asleep soon after a nighttime workout.

The Individualized Effects

While most people should avoid strenuous workouts right before bed, it’s important to note that nighttime workouts don’t have the same effect on everyone. You could be ready to relax and rest within a couple hours after exercise, or you could fall asleep quickest if you exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime. Further, some people find that simple, light movement like yoga or stretching before bed allows them to calm and relax their mind, helping them to drift off faster.

Timing Your Routine: Do What Works for You

If exercising before bed fits best with your schedule, it can’t hurt to give it a try and see if and how it impacts you. Maybe you’ll find that a sprint or HIIT workout before bed disrupts your sleep, but you’re able to do yoga or pilates without interfering with your rest. Every body is different, and you know your body best!

If you’re one of the many adults has difficulty falling asleep after nighttime exercise, remember that sleep and exercise are both important to your health. Try shifting your workouts to earlier in the day or evening to get the best of both worlds— you can still work up a sweat but won’t sacrifice sleep (and brain power at work the next day)!

Colleen is a member of the WCS Health Coaching team. As a Registered Dietitian, she is passionate about our team's ability to guide employees towards sustainable, healthy habits that help them lead their fullest life—inside and outside the workplace.