What’s the best time to exercise for a good night’s sleep?
The answer is, it depends.
It’s not just a question of timing. It’s also a question of type.
While I would discourage you from doing your interval training right before bed, and then sprinting into your pajamas, it can be okay to do weight training and beneficial to do some yoga before you hit the hay.
There are different styles of yoga too, however. As a 34-year fitness instructor I know to be careful with my responses! Hot power yoga right before bed? I say no. To calming, restorative yoga? I say yes!
For the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus primarily on moderate to vigorous intensity exercise. Timing your lower-intensity activity properly can actually enhance your sleep, but it won’t necessarily hurt your sleep either, if done at other times in the day. Moral of the story: be active!
In the hormone-balancing scheme of things, I’ve written much about the morning being the best time to exercise. If you’re in a hurry, I’ll give you a spoiler alert and tell you that for breaking a bad sleep cycle, exercising early emerges as one of the very best things you can do. [Ultimately, sleep is a necessary part of hormone balance.]
Read on for more details on all the factors that affect your best time to exercise:
- Blood Pressure
- Anxiety and Depression
- Sleep Hormone
Why is Morning the Best Time to Exercise for a Good Night’s Sleep?
Early workouts reduce nighttime blood pressure. That improves the quality of your sleep and increases your time in deep sleep. Deep sleep is one of the best things that can positively affect your lean body composition this side of 50.
Whether you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both, consistent resistance training helps. Again, earlier in the day is the most ideal timeframe to do so, but any time of day contributes significantly. Resistance training is particularly helpful as a sleep aid, especially if you have anxiety or depression.
Change your morning exercise location for an even bigger boost. Boost your sleep-regulating hormone Melotonin naturally by moving your morning workout outside. Hike, bike, yoga—anything! I’ve even been known to give my neighbors a show by lifting weights on the deck – try it!
If hormones aren’t the only thing contributing to lost sleep, and you’ve got a longer history of insomnia, exercise can help. Great sleep doesn’t happen overnight (pun intended). Stick with it. Several of my clients have reported sleeping as much as two additional hours each night, after working at it consistently. One of them noticed significant improvement in both the number of times awoken throughout the night, as well as an increased deep sleep cycle. That not only improved her quality of life, but it finally got her off a weight loss plateau, too! She’s since lost 75 pounds in her 60s. Sleep makes all the difference!
If you’re 44-55, moderate- to high-intensity exercise improves sleep the most. If you’re 65 or older, moderate- and low-intensity exercise improves sleep most. My advice however, is to test it for yourself.
If what you’re doing now isn’t working:
- Move your higher intensity exercise to morning (both resistance training and cardio)
- Exercise outdoors when possible
- Keep a journal of falling asleep, staying asleep, and exercise time
- Identify your personal best time to exercise
P.S. You’re unique and so is your schedule. If exercise later in the day works best for you, don’t despair. Weight training done later in the day is better than not at all. Forego the late-day high-intensity interval training, however. In general, stay away from tough workouts for at least four hours before bed.
Do remember, a quality workout takes minutes, not hours.
This post was sponsored by the great folks at Sleep Number.