How Long Should You Wait Between Exercising and Going to Bed?

Late-Night Workouts May Increase Body Temperature, But Do They Cause Insomnia?

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A couple runs in the evening. John Fedele/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you exercise late and have trouble falling or staying asleep, symptoms that characterize insomnia, you might wonder: How long should I wait between exercising and going to bed? Learn how much time should elapse after your exercise before bedtime and what symptoms you might experience if you don’t wait long enough before going to sleep.

The Relationship Between Exercise and Sleep

There are some theoretical impacts of exercise on sleep that you might take into consideration.

Vigorous, aerobic exercise may increase your body temperature. An elevated body temperature may make it harder to fall asleep, as most of us prefer to sleep in a slightly cool environment. Fortunately, your body temperature is well regulated by sweating and once you are no longer sweating, it is likely mostly normalized.

In addition, exercise can release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (also called epinephrine). These hormones may rev you up, making it slightly harder to fall asleep. The good news is that they are likely not too disruptive and may actually enhance your sleep. In fact, when you are more active during the day, most people report sleeping better at night.

How Long to Wait Between Exercise and Bedtime?

In the past, sleep experts recommended avoiding exercise for 4 hours before going to sleep. Recently, this recommendation has changed. For many people who work, no exercise in the 4 hours before bedtime led too often to simply no exercise.

Given the health implications, this is no longer suggested.

Instead, it is recommended that you stay active and exercise every day. It is not necessary to avoid exercising before bedtime. If you find that you are having difficulty getting to sleep on the nights you exercise right before bedtime, you might consider changing the timing of your exercise or your activity.

In general, low-impact stretching and walking are great ways to unwind and may be done in the last few hours of the night without negative impacts on sleep.

If you continue to have difficult falling or staying asleep, speak with a sleep specialist about ways to help you to sleep better.

Source:

Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Sleep Foundation. Last accessed: November 22, 2014.

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