Can Working Out Mess Up Your Sleep?

Medically Reviewed on 3/9/2022
Can working out mess up your sleep
Working out in the late evening does not interfere with sleep so long as you avoid vigorous exercising one hour before bedtime.

It was traditionally believed that working out right before bedtime could make falling asleep difficult because it increases the core body temperature, heart rate, and the levels of adrenaline in the blood. Thus, avoiding exercise close to bedtime was considered a crucial part of sleep hygiene (lifestyle practices that help you sleep better).

Many recent studies, however, suggest that for most people working out at bedtime or in the late evening does not interfere with sleep.

According to several research findings:

  • People who exercise, regardless of the time of the day, sleep better than those who don’t
  • Not getting exercise may result in poor sleep quality
  • Moderate-intensity workout during late evening hours may help you sleep better and be more restful

Dozing off could be difficult particularly when vigorous exercising is done right before bedtime. If you think that a certain form of exercise perturbs your sleep, you may avoid it close to bedtime. Generally, exercise can help improve sleep quality, no matter what time of the day it is done.

According to a study published in the journal of Sports Medicine in 2018, exercising during the evening does not hamper sleep as long as you avoid vigorous exercise or physical activity at least an hour before your bedtime. This study analyzed 23 studies that evaluated the onset and quality of sleep amongst healthy adults who performed a single session of evening exercise compared with similar adults who did not.

The findings suggested that:

  • There was no negative effect of exercise on sleep in individuals who exercised during the evening
  • Exercise during the evenings helped the individuals sleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep
  • Individuals who did high-intensity exercise (such as interval training) less than an hour before bedtime took longer to fall asleep and had poorer sleep quality
  • Those who did cycling at a regular pace, walking, or stretches slept better

How does exercise affect your sleep?

Exercise helps you sleep better in several ways:

  • It helps release the feel-good hormones and relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
  • It decreases the time taken to fall asleep
  • It helps manage your weight, thereby preventing conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea
  • It improves your sleep quality and promotes deep sleep, helping you wake up refreshed

What is the best time to exercise?

The best time to exercise depends on your choices and schedule.

Most people recommend early morning exercise as ideal because there is less likelihood of distractions during the morning hours. Most people feel more energized and focused during a morning workout routine. This does not mean that if you cannot work out in the morning, you should not exercise at all. You can choose any time that suits you. You must, however, avoid vigorous exercises for at least an hour before your bedtime.

Avoid a heavy meal before exercise and give a gap of about one to two hours after a light to a moderate meal. Thus, you can choose any time to exercise so that it does not interfere with your work or daily routine and spares enough hours for you to get rest.

Which exercises help you sleep better?

All kinds of exercises are good for your overall health. If you wish to exercise late in the evening, avoid vigorous exercises (such as high-intensity interval training) because they may disturb your sleep cycle.

Some of the exercises that may help you sleep better are:


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Medically Reviewed on 3/9/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Pacheco D. Exercise and Sleep. Sleep Foundation.

Harvard Health Publishing. Does exercising at night affect sleep?

Kline CE. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(6):375-379.