Much confusion lies even in sleep therapists when it comes to this question; Does exercise before sleep help or hinder sleep? We looked through the literature, so you don’t have to. And the results are pretty illuminating.
As has been the consensus for a while, exercise is associated with better quality, longer sleep, particularly deep sleep, and less insomnia. In this systematic review (a review of a number of studies, which is highly reliable), 24 of 29 studies reviewed showed a positive association between exercise patterns and interventions and sleep, with only 1 showing negative effects (whose methodology was possibly flawed, as it only examined sleep after 1 night of exercise prior to sleep).
But one thing that most sleep researchers agree on is that exercise directly preceding sleep can affect quality of sleep. The number of hours prior to sleep they advise against exercise is generally 4 hours, however, a review on this matter recently found that perhaps this link isn’t reflected in the literature. The team from the Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport from Zurich found that only vigorous exercise (any exercise which stops you from talking – like running) performed an hour before sleep affected sleep negatively. Moderate exercise, like walking, done 30 minutes before sleep didn’t have any impact on sleep.
To be safe though, we’d recommend that you avoid vigorous exercise at least 2 hours before sleep. But don’t let that old myth stop you from exercising! It’s not only good for sleep, but also the factor most associated with good heart health, and general wellness!
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