running shoes in bed

When to Exercise for Better Sleep

There’s no doubt that regular exercise is good for the body in many ways, but when to get your sweat on is not quite as clear. Is there a way to exercise for better sleep?

“Exercise improves metabolism, burns calories and comes with the benefits of weight reduction,” said Dr. Clinton Doerr, medical director of respiratory care at St. Luke’s Medical Center and a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine. “But in terms of whether to exercise in the morning, afternoon or evening, and how it relates to the sleep cycle? We don’t know of any particular ideal time.”

“I just advise people not to do to it right before going to bed.”

You might think that’s because of the adrenaline rush, but that’s only part of the story.

This is How to Exercise Better

“Exercise increases your core body temperature,” Doerr said. “It takes roughly two to three hours to come down, and in fact it appears to dip below where it started. So I actually recommend exercise and bathing for some of my insomnia patients. I ask them what time their ideal time is to achieve sleep, and to exercise or shower about three hours in advance of that. That cooling off of core body temperature promotes sleep.

Sleep is important for many reasons, but for those who are active, it’s the time during which fatigued muscles are restored and small tears are repaired.

“Most data suggests that human beings perform the best physically and metabolically when they achieve 7.5 to eight hours of sleep per night,” Doerr said. “A century ago, the average was nine to 10 hours per night, but with the advent of electricity, we’ve become progressively shorter sleepers.”

And with electricity came the advent of gyms that operate 24/7.

The irony here is that sacrificing sleep for exercise does not do a body good. Cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone that controls stress, is out of whack; and appetite-hormone levels, such as leptin, become abnormal.

“If you’re exercising at odd hours, at the risk of getting a good recuperative sleep, there’s probably a point where you cross the risk/benefit ratio,” Doerr said. “Whatever you’re gaining from exercise you may be negating because of poor sleep.”

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