We all know that exercise is important for both a healthy lifestyle and a healthy sleep cycle. There are many sleep benefits that come from exercising throughout the week, but then the question becomes when is the best time of day to exercise?
At the Crack of Dawn
Some would say that exercising early in the morning is the best time to do it. Early birds who do this first thing have less to worry about and can’t use the excuse “I’ll just do it later” since it’s already done! As an added bonus, this can help in falling into a deep sleep later that night. If the physical activity doesn’t help wake you up, the sunlight can help your body know that it’s time to start the day.
If you want to push it to later in the day, an afternoon workout may be better. During this time, your muscles are warmer compared to that morning. This added warmth allows your body to perform more complex movements and lowers the risk of injury. Aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, and cycling may help make you sleepier later in the day.
In the Evening
Exercising, especially strenuous exercise, can be an energy booster for some people. Due to this reason, it’s important to avoid exercise late in the day, even more, if it’s too close to bedtime. The added increase in body temperature and stimulation from the workout can keep you up and prevent your body from fully relaxing, making it harder to get ready for bed.
Routine is Important
Something that can be agreed upon is that exercising at least 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes is beneficial for both health and sleep. Anything from yoga to running will give you the best results, just keep it up. Sleep quality may even noticeably improve that same night. It’s important to stay consistent in your routine and exercise as often as you are comfortably able to for best results. If you’re just starting out, be sure to take it slow and learn the limits of what you can and can’t do. Keep at it and over time you will improve, so don’t give up! If you don’t like the activity you initially chose, change it up, and find what you enjoy the most.
How Exercise and Sleep Benefit Each Other
The best part of exercise and sleep is that they work very well together. The better you sleep, the more awake you’ll be, and the better your workout – assuming you’ve properly stretched and allowed enough time for muscle recovery of course. In return, a good work out will translate into a better night’s sleep, and the cycle continues.
Aerobic exercises get the heart pumping, and your body begins to release endorphins, which have their own benefits. This combination of increased heart rate and endorphins can help in waking you up. Once you finish exercising and are beginning to rest and cool down, your body begins to react accordingly. Leaving 1-2 hours before bed allows time for these endorphins to fully wash out of your body. This washout allows your body to be more relaxed and prepared for sleep. Working up a good sweat is a sign that your body is getting warm and allowing time to fully cool down can be beneficial in prepping your body to relax and sleep.
REM sleep and Exercise
An inconsistent sleep schedule, too much caffeine, stress and lack of physical exercise can be contributing factors to a lack of REM sleep. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is the stage in sleep when memories and what happened during the day are retained. Most of us require 90-110 minutes of REM sleep each night, but sometimes that’s difficult to get. Fortunately, a regular exercise schedule can help hit the target. Working out for most of the week can help boost mood, reduce stress, and burn off excess energy. Not only that, sufficiently hydrating to replenish these lost fluids further adds to the health benefits of proper exercise. These changes can positively contribute to achieving and maintaining good REM sleep.
Listen to Your Body
Whether exercising in the morning or later in the day, it’s important to stay consistent in both workout routines each week and the sleep-wake cycle each day. Start at a comfortable pace and slowly increase the intensity. Regardless of when you choose to workout, stay hydrated, stretch, and take time to allow for recovery. No matter the recommendations, it’s important to listen to your body. If working out in the evening has no negative effect on your quality of sleep, there’s no need to change your routine! Just keep doing what works for you and don’t be discouraged if you have to change things up a few times to get it right. Stay patient and you will be rewarded with better endurance and better sleep.