We all know that regular exercise does wonders for your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, the rigors of life, work, and responsibilities can get in the way, making it challenging to create a workout routine and stick to it.
Some people manage to squeeze in some exercise either in the morning or late at night. But which is better? What are the pros and cons of exercising before you go to bed?
Working out before going to sleep is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for a less cluttered morning and midday schedule and (when done right) improves sleep quality. It also allows you to unwind after a long day, reduce stress, and boost performance. The main con is difficulty staying consistent.
Read on to learn more about the good and the bad of working out at night. There are also some valuable insights into the best workouts you can do before heading to bed.
Pros of Exercising Before Bedtime
Below are a handful of benefits of working out at night.
Enjoy a More Relaxed Morning
Most people have packed morning schedules during the week. Between work, running errands, and taking the kids to school, having to fit your workout in between errands, chores, and work is no easy feat. Also, maybe waking up super early just doesn’t work with your spouse’s schedule.
On the flip side, lots of people have a less stressful time (schedule-wise) later in the day. You have more time to follow through with your exercise routine and even stay a bit longer to finish it without worrying about your workday ahead of you.
Another perk is that having one thing less to do in the morning gives you a little extra sleep.
For some, nighttime is the only time of the day when they get a chance to exercise. If you’re one of those people, you should definitely do so. Don’t forget the cardinal rule: Any exercise is better than no exercise.
Some moderate cardio or yoga are ideal options that don’t compromise your sleep pattern. That’s my recommendation for the general public. You’ve really got to test it out for yourself. I can hit the weights before bed, shower, then sleep like a baby.
If I play some Friday night basketball with the boys, then I’m usually hot and sweaty and no matter how cold the shower water is, I can’t get my body to cool down for at least an hour.
So make a list of the different exercise options you have and just test each one. Then stick with those that don’t interrupt your sleep.
Improve Sleep Quality
One major advantage of exercising before bed is that it allows you to get better quality sleep. Though, you should note that this is true only under certain conditions.
Again, the only general rule I can give here is to stick with light or moderate exercises. If you weren’t exercising before, you’ll quickly notice that you’re getting deeper, more consistent sleep.
When you work out in the morning or midday, you may end up feeling sluggish.
Yet, this isn’t the case at all during nighttime workouts. Many people notice that their performance is significantly better at night for several reasons.
The first reason is that your body temperature tends to be higher at night. However, your body is better prepared for working out compared to earlier in the day.
You’ll also notice that you have better stamina during nighttime workouts. Therefore, you’ll be able to perform at higher intensities for longer.
Finally, flexibility is higher later in the day. This helps enhance performance and reduces the risk of injury. When you work out in the morning, your body has just been still for something like 6-8 hours. It takes longer to warm up your body to get the same performance that you have later in the day.
Evening Workouts Help You Relax After a Long Day
Usually, after a day of stress and anxiety, your body needs to unwind.
Yet, when you think about a calming activity, working out probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Exercising after a long day is a great way to disconnect from daily stressors and release negative energy.
A number of studies have shown that a 30-minute workout session can have a lasting calming effect on your body. Furthermore, many people have stated that they feel more relaxed and less stressed after getting a good sweat going.
Exercise has this effect because it causes your brain to release a wave of endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals responsible for making us feel happy, confident, and less anxious.
Cons of Exercising Before Bedtime
Exercising before bedtime isn’t without its downsides.
These disadvantages are mostly related to having trouble maintaining a consistent workout regimen. You might also notice there are limited options in terms of the type of activities you can do at night.
Higher Risk of Not Following Through
Getting into the swing of a consistent nighttime workout routine is easier said than done.
There are distractions galore, from family, to the amazing TV shows that they put out.
Just be honest with yourself. If you don’t feel like you have the discipline to maintain a consistent nighttime workout routine, you’re better off exercising earlier in the day.
The cardinal rule is: Any exercise is better than no exercise! Just find out what jives best with your schedule and do it at that point in the day.
Missing Out on Group Workouts
Another issue with exercising before bedtime is that you probably won’t be able to work out as part of a group. These tend to be kind of quiet at night. But check around your local area, I may be wrong.
There’s an off chance that you’ll find a gym or other facility that offers group workout sessions with an instructor that late in the day. However, these sessions are typically held in the morning, midday and early evening.
Why is this significant?
There are numerous benefits to exercising as part of a group. For starters, you’re more likely to stay consistent because there are other people there to motivate you.
Additionally, studies have shown that group workouts have a highly positive effect on physical and mental health.
If you’re not one for working out solo, then scheduling your exercise routine for later in the day probably isn’t the best idea.
Limited Exercise Activities Available
The fact that there aren’t many facilities that stay open until late at night poses yet another issue. It tends to limit the types of exercises you can do at that time of day.
Even activities that you don’t need a gym for can become a bit impractical at night. For example, some places can get too dark or too cold outside to go out for a jog or go cycling around the neighborhood.
We do have a larger number of 24-hour gyms popping up, but that’s not in every city yet.
Intense Workouts Can Affect Sleep Quality
Finally, the problem with nighttime exercise is that there are limitations to how hard you can train.
As previously mentioned, light and moderate physical activity before bed can significantly improve sleep quality. Yet, the same can’t be said about intense workouts.
Exercise regimens that include heavy weightlifting or strenuous movements such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can interfere with your sleep patterns. These types of workouts can lead to a lack of quality sleep and waking up more frequently during the night.
It’s especially true if you engage in such activities less than an hour before bedtime.
Instead, I recommend that you go for low-impact exercise activities, such as jogging or yoga to be safe.
Does the Type of Exercise Matter?
When gauging whether exercising before bedtime will affect your sleep, it’s essential to pinpoint the type of exercise in question.
Is it cardio or weightlifting?
Cardio exercises such as running and cycling are known to boost sleep quality. The improved quality is both in terms of the depth and duration of the sleep you get.
Additionally, aerobic exercises in general are linked to reduced insomnia and sleep apnea symptoms. However, numerous studies show that weightlifting and resistance training can be just as effective as cardio at improving your sleep, if not more.
Therefore, the ideal pre-sleep workout regimen should include a bit of both cardio and weightlifting.
Are you not a big fan of weightlifting? No need to worry because you don’t have to do it every day. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) recommends that you only need about two days of weightlifting training in your weekly workout routine.
Does Exercising Before Bed Affect Everyone Equally?
When deciding what time of day you plan on working out, it’s natural to feel inclined to ask others what works for them. Yet, keep in mind that what feels right for other people doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ideal for you.
So, you have to try it out for yourself before you can figure out what time of the day can get you the best results. I always emphasize this point with my clients: Test it and see what works for you.
Start by working out in the morning for a week to give your body time to adjust to the new routine before making a decision. The following week, work out in the evening, and in the third week, do your exercises at night.
Finally, round up all the pros and cons of each one. Then, decide on the time of day when you feel most comfortable and satisfied with your performance.
If your tight schedule means that working out before bedtime is your only option, try different exercise types and intensities to gauge how they affect your sleep.
Have you found a workout routine that you like, but feel like it’s affecting your sleep? Try doing the same workout an hour or two earlier. You can also try eating a small snack or having a protein shake after the workout and see if that helps.
Through this process of trial and error, you’ll eventually find that magic hour when your body best responds to the workouts, and you still get to sleep soundly every night.
Exercise is a vital component of living a healthy, well-balanced life. Juggling work and family responsibilities sometimes doesn’t leave much time for anything else. That’s why many people opt to work out at night instead.
Yet, before you start, make sure you go through the pros and cons of exercising before bedtime that we listed in this post. The benefits of nighttime workouts include increased performance. They also improve sleep quality and help you relax and unwind after a long day.
On the other hand, working out before bed gives you a limited number of options regarding the type of exercise you can do. Also, maintaining a consistent nighttime workout routine requires a lot of discipline, which isn’t always easy.
I suggest you try working out before bedtime for a week and see if it works for you.