College students tend to have unpredictable schedules and many times sleep takes a backseat to other priorities. We stay up all night, maybe in the library or maybe at a bar, wake up for an 8:30 class, and come home and nap until 3. Somewhere in there, we are (or should be) trying to fit in working out, at least every now in then. Fitting that into your schedule can be tough, and as someone who has shut down the gym on multiple occasions, I questioned whether there was a prime time of the day to exercise and, more specifically, if we should be doing it right before we go to sleep.
Here’s the low down on exactly what happens to your body when you hit the gym right before you hit the sack.
One of the best things about exercise is that it energizes you. It raises your heart rate, jump starts your metabolism, and raises your adrenaline levels, all things you don’t really want when you’re trying to wind down. They are also among the reasons working out first thing in the morning is so popular. Your body temperature peaks in the afternoon, which means that this is a good time for exercise of the highest possible intensity. Clearly, there are many advantages to working out early in the day. Still, questions remain, such as whether there are any advantages to exercising before bed, whether it interferes with sound sleeping, and whether, when forced to choose, college students are better off exercising before bed or not at all.
While the effects of exercise on the body seem counterproductive to falling asleep, according to a study reported by CNN, people “slept just as well on nights when they exercised for 35 minutes right before bed as they did on nights when they didn’t exercise.”
83% of people reported having a better nights sleep after exercising, regardless of the time at which they did it. So, it seems safe to conclude that exercising before bed has many of the same advantages as working out at any other time of the day and is unlikely to disrupt sleep. This may be bad news who used the rumor that late night exercise interferes with sleep as an excuse to skip the gym altogether, because the conclusion is clear: exercising right before bed is, for the most part, much healthier than skipping it.
Of course, there is a small portion of the population who have been found to sleep less soundly directly after exercising. If you fall into this minority, it still may not be time to rule out a late night work out all together. There are many things that you can do following a work out to help you wind down, such as take a cold shower, meditating, and eating certain foods.