Hospital staff are at higher prevalence of obesity, poor eating habits, and insufficient exercise, especially night-shift workers (you probably don’t need research to tell you that, right?). So if you’re trying to fit fitness into your life, do it when you can. If working out in the evening best fits your work hours and overall schedule, go ahead and exercise that option.
A new study sheds light on the common one-size-fits-all advice that a nighttime sweat session will negatively impact your sleep by keeping you up. On the contrary, the researchers found that 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise performed in the early evening doesn’t affect subsequent sleep. Bonus: It might even reduce your appetite.
In the study, 11 middle-aged men completed three high-intensity exercise trials to investigate sleep and their appetite responses to exercise performed between 6 to 7 a.m., 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Participants cycled at a high intensity in six one-minute sprints interspersed with four minutes of rest. Blood samples were obtained before and after exercise to measure appetite-related hormones. Participants’ sleep during the night was also tested and monitored to assess sleep stages.
The study found that evening exercise wasn’t a sleep stealer; it didn’t have a detrimental impact on sleep. The study also found that evening exercise may help you say goodnight to the temptation for nighttime snacking. In the study, high intensity afternoon and evening exercise was also associated with greater reductions in ghrelin, a hunger-stimulating hormone, signaling that evening exercise may reduce appetite.
The researchers hope to conduct a similar study in women. In the meantime, they recommend considering nighttime as viable a time to exercise as any. If you can only work out in the evening because of your shifts or work schedule, go ahead. Feel free to power up with a dance class or high intensity workout while the sun is going down.
The advice concurs with the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). According to the NSF, for some people, even vigorous exercise two hours before bedtime has no impact on sleep. In fact, nighttime sleep could promote sleep by raising your core body temperature. When your body cools down after your workout, it makes you sleepy, setting the stage for a goodnight’s sleep. Taking a hot shower or bath before bed has a similar sleep-inducing effect.
Evening exercise may also promote sleep by helping you blow off steam and calm down afterward. If you find that it consistently causes a PM problem, then it may be best to exercise earlier in the day. The NSF recommends experimenting with exercising at different times of the day and tracking your sleep patterns to see if nighttime exercise is an option.
Last updated on 9/25/19.