Insomnia is a common problem, with an estimated 30% of adults saying they struggle to sleep. This can include trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or non-restorative sleep. But some people experience sleep disruptions due to restless leg syndrome, snoring, or sleep apnea.
If that sounds like you, it might be time to consider exercising to improve your sleep quality. Studies show no behavior is more closely associated with better sleep than exercise. Moderate aerobic exercise or flexibility workouts are best for this. But does the timing of exercise matter as much as type? Find out below.
Does Evening Exercise Disturb Sleep?
The fact of the matter is this question is still very much under debate.
Medical experts — and even the American Academy of Sleep Medicine — have traditionally claimed working out before bedtime can negatively affect sleep. However, there seems to be no evidence that this is truly the case.
A study published in Psychophysiology involving healthy volunteers, for example, found that physical activity before bedtime hadn’t impaired their sleep. In fact, it made it better. Furthermore, results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll found that evening exercise was not associated with worse sleep.
Seeing evening exercise as bad for sleep is influenced by the simple fact that, when we’re ready to hit the sack, bodily processes slow down. In contrast, exercise leads to a boost in core temperature, heart rate, and endorphins — all of which should prevent us from falling asleep.
But turns out things are not that simple, and many people find that they sleep soundly after a light evening workout. However, vigorous workouts, such as HIIT, often do the exact opposite. That’s why whether late exercise will disrupt your sleep depends on intensity.
What About Morning Workouts?
Working out in the morning has its own perks.
Firstly, it will let you soak up the sun. Sunlight paired with exercise is a fantastic cocktail for better mood and, thus, restful sleep. And with it you will get a healthy dose of vitamin D, which can also favorably affect sleep, according to a systematic review published in Nutrients.
But there’s another reason morning workouts are great for sleep: they stimulate early melatonin release, according to one study. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm and sleep. So, if your main problem is falling asleep, then morning to afternoon workouts are a better option for your case than evening workouts.
Otherwise, it’s really best to adjust your workout routine to your schedule. Your workout routine has to be stress-free for quality sleep.
And What if I Have a Different Sleep Disorder?
If your problem is a disorder such as primary snoring, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome (RLS), you could also benefit from exercise.
Firstly, sleep apnea and snoring are often linked to excess weight, so exercise could help on that front. Secondly, studies have found that exercise is beneficial for sleep apnea independent of weight loss. A possible reason could be because it increases muscle tone in the upper airway and decreases fluid accumulation in the neck. The same beneficial effects can be seen in cases of RLS.
As for the timing of exercise where these conditions are concerned, it probably doesn't matter as long as you’re meeting Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommend 150 minutes of exercise weekly. That could mean half an hour each day, five days a week.
In the meantime, you could find other techniques for temporary relief, such as gentle massages for RLS or snore solutions such as mouthpieces for snoring and mild apnea. Our Good Morning Snore Solutions is ideal for primary snoring and was clinically tested and FDA-cleared. Make sure to consult your physician before considering these devices to ensure your safety.