Sleep and Exercise: Working out before bed.

Sleep and Exercise: Working out before bed. 

Learn how to create a pre-bed workout routine that sticks.

All of us would love a regular routine of eight hours of refreshing, uninterrupted sleep, yet it can sometimes be confusing as to what we should be doing in terms of an evening exercise routine in order to accomplish this. Should we tire ourselves out with exercise before bed? Or perhaps we shouldn’t exercise too close to sleep so as not to energise ourselves? Here we’ll look into the connection between exercise and sleep, the pros and cons of evening workouts and what types of exercises you should do before bed. We’ll also cover some top tips for creating a pre-bed workout routine that sticks so that you can form great habits that are good for your mind, body and soul.

The importance of sleep

The importance of sleep

Sleep is one of the most important elements to consider when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing as it is essential for our body’s rest and recovery while also helping balance our mood, process memories, and reduce the risk of certain diseases and medical conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Yet so many of us don’t pay our sleep hygiene the attention it deserves. We often drink caffeine, use our phones and eat heavy meals just before bed and then wonder why we don’t sleep well. Exercising vigorously at night can fall into this bracket too, so let’s dig into whether exercising before bed is a good idea and what types of evening workouts you should do.

Sleep and exercise are interconnected

It is often spouted that we shouldn’t exercise before bed as it will keep us awake. While we’re conversely told that exercise and fresh air are good for us and will tire us out. So, which is true?!

Well, sort of both of them.

There have been a number of studies around sleep and exercise aiming to discover the connection between these two essential wellbeing factors. Research has shown that aerobic exercises can help decrease insomnia and that a 30-minute workout during the day may well help you sleep better. However, it is worth noting that studies (albeit relatively small ones) have also surmised that it’s best to stick to moderate intensity exercise before bed and to plan your session to end at least 60 minutes before you wind down, just to ensure your heart rate and core temperature can return to normal before trying to get to sleep.

Why working out before bedtime is important

It is also important to consider the mental health benefits of exercising before bedtime. Exercising in the evening can be a great way to transition from your working day to night time; reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, helping to soothe depression and anxiety and generally helping you to wind down. Focusing on lifting weights before bed, taking a gentle stroll in nature or enjoying some yoga will all help to quieten the mind and get you in the right headspace for sleep.

You might also want to try out some calming breathing exercises, known as Pranayama in yoga, as these can help you tap into the relaxed parasympathetic nervous system which is perfect for unwinding before bed.

Tips for starting a pre-sleep workout routine

As with all new workout routines, the best advice is to start small. Adding small but regular changes to your daily routine has been proven to have greater long-term effects on your overall wellbeing, allowing you to create healthy habits that last. Try to carve out somewhere between 5-30 minutes for your pre-sleep workout, perhaps starting with some simple stretching before bed. There are also a number of great mini workouts before bed online that you can follow to give you inspiration for short exercise routines.

When Should I Work Out Before Bed?

As mentioned above, it is best not to do strenuous activity within an hour of bedtime (preferably 90 minutes) but if you’re just doing some calming stretches or perhaps a yin yoga routine, it would be fine to do this just before you go to sleep. The key factor is not raising your heart rate or body temperature too much just before bed as these changes release a flow of endorphins which may keep you awake for longer.

The decrease in body temperature after a workout can help to induce drowsiness though, so timing it well (for your own individual body) may work wonders for your sleep! It’s worth experimenting with different times to see which works best for you.

What Kind of Exercises Should I Do Before Bed?

Studies have shown that mild-moderate intensity exercises are the best option when it comes to working out before bed so, choosing some gentle cardio such as a walk or light jog, following a yoga flow or planking before bed are all good choices. You could also opt for something simple like a few push ups before bed if you only have a couple of extra minutes in which to squeeze something in!

mat and bottle of water next to your bed will help you stick to an evening workout

How can I make sure I stick with it?

The best way to make sure you stick to a pre-sleep workout routine is to choose something you want to do, something that you can easily fit into your schedule and something that makes you feel good. You’re much less likely to give up a relaxing 10-minute stretching session if you enjoy it and reap the rewards in your mind and body, than you are an hour-long spin class that you hate and that feels like a chore you have to fit in before bed!

Another top tip is to lay out all the things you need for your workout in the morning or earlier in the day when you’re feeling perky. That way, starting your evening exercise routine will be much easier and you’re less likely to skip your pre-bed yoga session if your mat is already rolled out next to your bed or your shoes and a water bottle are at the ready.

The Benefits of a Pre-Sleep Workout

Exercise has been scientifically proven to not only help our physical health and reduce the risk of disease, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, but it’s also an excellent mood booster too, and who doesn’t want to go to sleep happy?!

A bedtime workout can help you improve your sleep by balancing your circadian rhythms, boosting your metabolism, increasing your energy levels during the day and also working to strengthen your mind-body connection. Try to take time to be mindful of your breathing and posture while you exercise before bed, as these will help to relax your mind and body ready for a good night’s sleep.

Once you find a practice that works for you and you begin to feel the benefits to your sleep patterns, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

So, there you have it, the science behind exercising before bed, the benefits and types of exercises you might want to try, and some top tips for helping you to create and stick to a routine that works for you. Let us know in the comments below what exercises you like to do before bed so that we can feel inspired and motivated to try some new evening activities!

Plus, check out our selection of yoga holidays or exercise-based retreats that offer a whole host of the morning, afternoon, and evening workouts.

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