Nighttime exercise and sleep

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 8th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Squeezing exercise into the hectic hustle and bustle of life can be a challenge. Some prefer to rise early in the morning and hit the gym for their workout, while others wait until after work to pump iron or pound the pavement. But most fitness experts and many sleep specialists have questioned the wisdom of working out close to bedtime. They say aerobics stimulates adrenaline as well as the heart and brain, making it tough for the body to shutdown for slumber.

But findings from some scientific studies contradict this theory.

Researchers at the University of Georgia and the University of California at San Diego, for example, asked college students to workout at moderate intensity before bed for an hour on two different nights. One night they exercised ninety minutes before turning in, and on the other they worked out thirty minutes before bed. The study showed that moderate exercise, even close to bedtime, had no apparent effect on the length of time participants took to fall asleep. Researchers also discovered that indicators of sleep quality… such as the length of night’s sleep and the number of awakenings during the night… weren’t adversely affected.

Experts believe a moderate workout close to bedtime may even aid sleep for some, raising body temperatures and melting away stress. For these people, a moderate workout thirty minutes or more before bedtime may be even more conducive than counting sheep for a more relaxing night’s sleep.