Research finds intense exercise right before bedtime detrimental to sleeping

October 7, 2021
Research finds intense exercise right before bedtime detrimental to sleeping

Intense physical activity done less than two hours before bedtime negatively impacts sleep, say researchers from Concordia University, Canada. Postdoctoral fellow Emmanuel Frimpong, who conducted a study into the relationship between exercise and sleep, said study participants who practised intense physical activity late at night additionally reported decreased sleep duration.

Exercise is known to alter sleep depending on when it is carried out: to study the timing of exercise and its potential results Concordia researchers combined data from the 15 prior studies and ran a statistical analysis that examined variables such as time of exercise – early evening or late evening — and the hours between the cessation of exercise and bedtime — less than two hours, around two hours, and two to four hours.

The analysis focused on single intense exercise sessions affecting young and middle-aged adults in the hours leading up to bedtime.

It also involved weighing up different variables such as the fitness levels of the subjects and whether they were sedentary or physically active, whether the workouts were performed early or late evening, and what types of exercise they entailed.

“Our analysis showed that when exercise ended two hours before bedtime, there were sleep benefits, including the promotion of sleep onset and increased sleep duration,” said Frimpong. Conversely, when exercise ended less than two hours before bedtime, it longer for participants to fall asleep and sleep duration was decreased.

Read: New 5-minute breathing exercise can help with vascular health

Further insights from the team’s analysis include cycling as the type of exercise most beneficial to promoting sleep onset and deep sleep. High-intensity workouts of between 30 and 60 minutes were similarly beneficial for sleep onset and duration – it led to a slight decrease in the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep.

Frimpong advises healthy young and middle-aged adults with no history of sleep disorders to perform evening exercises early, if possible. “Individuals should also keep to a consistent exercise schedule, as exercising at different times of the evening could cause sleep disturbances,” he said.

“Individuals should also consider whether they are morning people or evening people. High intensity exercise performed late in the evening can result in sleep disturbance for morning-type people.”

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