If you’ve had a long, hard day with the kids or have been at work all day, you probably haven’t had a minute to exercise. So will exercising at night affect the quality of your #sleep? Some say exercising in the evening is the best way to ensure a good night’s sleep, because it reduces anxiety for hours afterward. “Sleep problems can occur because of anxiety, so this seems like it would help,” Walker says.
Still, the prevailing view is that vigorous exercise right before bedtime may keep you up. Exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system, which in plain talk means that your nervous system cranks up your heart rate and blood pressure and releases a host of hormones (e.g. adrenaline) and other chemicals that get your body racing. That’s just the opposite of the process we normally go through when we’re getting ready for sleep.
But Shawn Youngstedt, Ph.D., a professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina who has done extensive research on exercise and sleep, has found no positive or negative effect. “Although it is generally assumed that exercise at night disturbs sleep, most studies that have examined the issue found virtually no effect. That doesn’t mean if you go out and exercise right before bed you won’t have a problem,” he says. “Some may still have trouble falling asleep, because each person is unique.”
Youngstedt’s suggestion? “Experiment for yourself.” If the only time you have available to exercise is when you get home from work, try it for a few weeks with moderate exercise. “Many times your body adjusts, and there won’t be a problem.” Or, if you’re still having problems, try stretching exercises such as yoga, which have been shown to improve sleep regardless of when you do them.