Does Working Out at Night Mess with Sleep?

bodybuilder exercise night sleep quality

Trending News: Evening workouts can actually benefit sleep quality

If you have been working out for a while, you’ve probably heard that exercising at night is a bad idea. The thinking is that nighttime gym visits rev up your system, making it hard to sleep.

But a new Swiss study is pouring cold water on this belief. Yep, that’s right. It’s OK to do cardio and pump iron at night, at least according to researchers at the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport at ETH Zurich.

Investigators conducted a metanalysis of 23 studies on the topic. What they found was moderate amounts of exercise within a four-hour window of going to bed does not have a negative impact on sleep.

In fact, evening expenditure of energy may even be beneficial.

“If doing sport in the evening has any effect on sleep quality at all, it’s rather a positive effect, albeit only a mild one,” said Dr. Christina Spengler, Deputy Head of the Exercise Physiology Lab at ETH Zurich.

The results from the study support the idea that evening exercise encourages deeper, more meaningful sleep. The findings revealed that after an evening of physical activity, participants spent 21.2 percent of their sleeping time in deep sleep. But after an evening with no exercise, the average “deep sleep” time was just 19.9 percent.

Related: Missing sleep may cause weight gain

There is an important caveat. Vigorous exercise within an hour of going to bed may cause sleep problems. The analysis shows, however, it is the only type of activity that may present issues.

“This preliminary observation is based on just one study,” Spengler said.

Guy Counseling spoke to Chicago personal trainer Mike Elder about the research and his definition of vigorous exercise.

“The findings make a lot of sense. Many people exercise at night because they work during the day. I encourage clients to allow at least two hours after ending their workout and hitting the hey, which seems mostly agree with this study,” says Elder.

He goes on to add, “Vigorous exercise would be something like cross-training; an activity that pulls in high-intensity activities and increases heart rate.”

Dr. Spengler offers her own thoughts. “As a rule of thumb, vigorous training is defined as training in which a person is unable to talk. Moderate training is physical activity of an intensity high enough that a person would no longer be able to sing, but they could speak,” says Spengler.

The important thing is to listen to your body. Because each of us had a circadian rhythm (your body clock), it’s important to pay attention to how your system responds to exercise at different times of the day.

Jan Stutz, a doctoral student of Spengler’s and lead author of the study shared the following. “Not everyone reacts to exercise in the same way, and people should keep listening to their bodies,” “If they notice they are having problems falling asleep after doing sport, they should try to work out a little earlier.”

The research has been published in the Journal of Sports Medicine.

Do you exercise at night? Has it had a positive or negative impact on the quality of your sleep?

About John D. Moore 320 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Follow him on LinkedIn