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Is It OK To Exercise Before Bed?

Exploring the implications of what time of day you do your workout.

Deposit Photos
Source: Deposit Photos

After my recent article about the Paleo and Keto diets and sleep , I got a lot of questions about another popular eating plan called Intermittent Fasting, so I wrote a blog post about Intermittent Fasting and Sleep . If you practice fasting or intermittent fasting, I think you’ll find the information very useful. It also ties in nicely with today’s topic.

Many of us are guilty of two things (myself included): eating too much and not exercising enough. This week I read two studies that address both of these issues from a sleep perspective, with some new ideas.

A new study shows that even one night of sleep loss can increase your cravings for junk foods. This was a fun study to read because the protocol was very realistic. Every subject went to the lab for a standardized dinner (this way everyone was eating the same thing and the same amount), then half of the people were asked to go home and sleep, while the other half were asked to stay in the lab and remain awake all night long. The researchers measured the subjects' desire for junk food, their brain activity, and their hormone levels the next morning.

And, the survey says (I love Family Feud): Sleep loss increased a person’s feelings of “value of food,” i.e., increased cravings. But hormones showed little to no effect—it was all the sleep loss! The MRI data showed that in the primal area of the brain, the amygdala, there was increased activity (meaning that caveman brain comes back when you are sleep-deprived, and all you want is to hunt and eat).

What can you do about it?

Practicing bedtime consistency is the key to avoiding the downside of lack of sleep. If you wake up sleep deprived, all of those holiday goodies are now readily available in the office, at holiday parties, and when meeting up with family and friends. If you don’t remember what your bedtime should be, try my bedtime calculator .

If you are having any issues falling asleep or staying asleep you may want to explore CBD.

Should you exercise before bed?

In another study I read this week there was some good news for those of us who like to work out.

Contrary to popular belief there is no evidence that exercise in the evenings causes sleep problems, according to researchers at the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport in Zurich.

The scientists conducting the research reviewed and analyzed 23 studies and found that subjects who had done some sport earlier in the evening spent 21.2% of their sleep in deep sleep that night (the sleep that is most physically refreshing), but on nights without exercise, they only spent 19.9% in deep sleep. While these numbers are not a huge difference, what the study did show was that exercise itself, close to bedtime, did not make sleep worse (and maybe even a little better).

To answer the question about whether or not you should exercise at night, I say go ahead and get that workout in, even if it is within two hours of bed. It will probably help with your sleep!

Sweet Dreams,
Dr. Michael Breus