"The New York Times" reports that about 25 percent of people have occasional sleeping problems, while 10 percent have chronic issues with sleep. Regular exercisers are less likely to be in these statistics. Nonexercisers report feeling more sleepy on any given day than exercisers, says the National Sleep Foundation. If the only time you can fit in a workout is just before bed, you are still better off exercising than skipping the session.
The National Sleep Foundation once echoed the advice of sleep experts that you should not exercise within three hours of going to bed. Vigorous exercise prior to bed raises your body temperature, and the onset of sleep is associated with lower body temperatures. After reviewing research and polls, the National Sleep Foundation revised its recommendations in 2013 to say that normal sleepers can exercise any time of day without adversely affecting sleep.
A study published in the March 2011 issue of the "Journal of Sleep Research" found no correlation between disturbed sleep quality and vigorous late-night exercise. In the National Sleep Foundation's 2013 Sleep in America poll, researchers found a strong correlation between exercise and good sleep, regardless of what time of day the exercise occurred. Vigorous exercisers reported the least problems associated with insomnia, including trouble falling asleep, waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep.
Strategy for Better Sleep
Kansas State University recommends that you do strenuous exercise, such as jogging or team sports, in the late afternoon to get more restful sleep. Being inactive prior to bed can actually increase the chance that you will suffer from insomnia. Exercise at any time of day is better for your sleep habits than no exercise at all, says the National Sleep Foundation.
Exercise can keep you awake if you stimulate yourself with caffeine in the afternoon or evening to add energy to your workout. Sensitivity to caffeine varies, but it takes about six hours for just one-half of the caffeine to leave your system. Caffeine is a common ingredient in energy drinks and some sports gels. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, honor any treatment plans that ask you refrain from evening exercise.
- National Sleep Foundation: National Sleep Foundation Poll Finds Exercise Key to Good Sleep
- Journal of Sleep Research: Effects of Vigorous Late-Night Exercise on Sleep Quality and Cardiac Autonomic Activity
- Kansas State University: How to Get a Good Night's Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Caffeine and Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Diet, Exercise and Sleep
- The New York Times: Sleeping Difficulty
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