Does Exercise at Night Interfere with Sleep? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Aug 29 | BY |
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Think an evening walk will destroy your good night’s sleep?
New studies say maybe not.

Studies have shown time and again that regular, daily activity reduces our risk of most of today’s deadly diseases, like cancer and heart disease, and appears to lengthen life and sharpen the mind.

One recent analysis of 80 studies with more than 1.3 million participants, for example, found that each weekly hour of light activity (such as walking or gardening) was associated with a 4 percent reduction in mortality rates. For moderate exercise such as golf or swimming, the reduction was 6 percent for every weekly hour. In effect, every 1,000 calories burned in exercise per week lowered mortality rates by 11 percent. (International Journal of Epidemiology)

Still, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the most commonly used excuse for not exercising is: “I don’t have time.”

In fact, most people do have or could make a bit of time in the evening to exercise, but the prevailing wisdom has been that exercising in the evening can have a negative effect on sleep, and a regular lack of sleep can create as many health risks as a lack of exercise. How to choose?

According to some recent studies, you may no longer have to. The Berkeley Wellness Letter (August 2012) recently noted that several studies have found that early evening exercise done before 8:00 p.m. does not impair sleep quality.

So much for that excuse!

What the Studies Found
Many of us have been told that exercising before bedtime or even within a few hours of bedtime can interfere with sleep. Exercise makes us more alert and raises body temperature. It takes time for us to relax again and for body temperature to drop down to where it usually is while sleeping. If we have only an hour or two before bedtime, we may not be ready yet and may lie awake unable to nod off.

Some scientists, however, now say that’s all a myth. Though some people may experience trouble sleeping after strenuous exercise, most people sleep better when they’re exercising regularly, and the best time of day is up to you. A Brazilian study published in Sleep Medicine in 2011, for instance, found that treadmill workouts starting at 6:00 p.m. were just as effective in improving sleep in middle-aged people with chronic insomnia as sessions done in the morning.

A second study published in Psychophysiology this year (2012) also found that moderate aerobic exercise done at 8:00 p.m. helped promote sleep in young men who went to bed two to three hours later. These results confirmed those of an earlier study by researchers from Northwestern Medicine, which found that adults 55 years and older who had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep who exercised for two 20-minute sessions four times per week or one 30-to-40-minute session four times per week changed from being poor sleepers to good sleepers. Participants also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality and less daytime sleepiness.

A third study published in a 2004 issue of Sleep found that activity, including low-impact aerobics, done between 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. improved sleep as well as morning workouts did.

What can we conclude from this research?

What’s Best for You?
Seems exercise can have both sleep-impairing and sleep-enhancing effects on the body. It can raise heart rate and body temperature, as well as alertness, potentially interfering with sleep quality, but it can also reduce anxiety, which is one of the main reasons people have trouble sleeping. Exercise also depletes the body’s energy levels, encouraging its natural tendency to refuel through sleep.

Everyone is different. The effects of exercise on sleep, therefore, are likely to vary from person to person, and will depend on fitness level, sleep problems (if any), and the type, timing, and intensity of the workout.

There’s no doubt, however, that regular exercise benefits health in a number of ways, and according to recent research, extends our lives. If you find that evening is the only time you have to exercise, by all means go for it. If you find it interfering with your sleep, give your body some time to adapt. If after a few weeks you’re still having trouble sleeping, try lowering the intensity of your workout. Or, try getting up an hour earlier and exercising then. (You may want to go to bed an hour earlier as well, to maintain your sleep time.)

According to Diane L. Elliot, author of The Healing Power of Exercise:

Do you have the time to exercise 90 to 120 minutes a week? Well, if you do, medical research indicates that you can accomplish a death-defying act. You will feel better, roll back your physiological clock, and gain more benefits than you would from any potion or medication ever invented.

Kevin Kolodziejski, writing for Times Online, adds:

After years of researching the subject, Lee Jones, a scientist at Duke University, believes he knows how those who would rather not exercise can avoid doing so yet still receive the same health benefits. If you have aversion to exercise, all you need to do is take 200 different drugs.

Kev’s Thoughts:

Regardless of what this article says, I simply cannot exercise with any intensity after 7:00 or so without having sleep issues. I can walk at night and sleep with no problem, but put me in a late night basketball game and I’m up until 4:00 AM.

Do you exercise in the evening hours? How does that work for you?

* * *

“Bench These Six Exercise Excuses,” University of Rochester Medical Center,

Kevin Kolodziejski, “Exercise may be the best medicine,” Times Online, May 26, 2012,

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Hello says:

    I just did some interval walking/running for about 30 min from around 8:30 PM last night, and I slept fine. I went to sleep around 11.

  2. Michael says:

    I had a habit of working out quite late at night (10-11.30 pm) and never had any problem falling asleep an hour or so after finishing my training. I guess it is all individual and a lot depends on the intensity and type of exercise.

  3. Mechelle says:

    I just bought a bike and LOVE it! It’s a great feeling to ride after work and dinner and end the day off with the sunset and wind on my face. It is the only thing that has brought me joy since my only son passed away and now I’m finding that sleeping afterwards is a problem. UGh! I would love to hear that my body will adapt with time.

  4. Sandie says:

    I have always disagreed with the experts on the matter. I exercise both in the morning and in the evening (bodyrockTV style with a mix of yoga and pilates) and I found that sleeping came a lot faster to me AND I sleep a lot deeper too.
    I guess it depends on people.
    Thanks for this article 🙂

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