Morning, afternoon or evening workout? What’s best for your sleep?

Workouts are the ultimate energy moderator: expend a little energy now and get a full night’s rest for your trouble! And studies show that a regular exercise routine can keep you feeling perky and lively through the day, too.

But like everything in life, it’s all about your timing. Planning your workouts in tune with your sleep schedule will help you reap all the energy benefits—without keeping you up at night.

The early riser

The pre-work workout has its benefits. Early birds may find that have an easier time falling asleep if they hit the gym before heading out for the day. In one study, researchers found that a 7:00 am workout resulted in better sleep outcomes for participants.

The reason for the difference? An AM workout appears to have a positive impact on blood pressure. The body’s blood pressure naturally dips at night and rises when you wake up and the body experiences a morning rush of hormones.

An early workout lowers blood pressure rates by about 10%—a difference which exercisers carry throughout the day. And that means you’re calmer when it’s time to hit the hay and really get that blood pressure down.

Of course, if you find you have to radically adjust your sleep schedule to make it into the gym before work, it may be worth pursuing other options.

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The afternoon sprint

Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with a midday or afternoon fitness either. You’ll still have the positive effects on your energy levels—in fact, many people prefer to work out during that afternoon slump. But you’ll also reap the benefits of optimal muscle temperature as well.

Our bodies are like an old car: they take a little while to warm up. Actually, the average person’s body temperature is about one to two degrees higher roughly four hours after waking up. That means your muscles are the warmest they’ll be for the day, helping you to avoid injury and to perform better as well!

The workout night owl

Working out at nighttime used to be strictly a no-go—at least if you wanted to sleep afterwards. High-intensity workouts raise your cardiac levels and body temperature, which can have you feeling more alert than you’d like to be when you sink into bed.

But it depends a lot on the kind of workout you prefer, and how much time you give yourself to recover afterwards.

For instance, a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that nighttime fitness only affected sleep when participants exerted intense effort—in other words, 80% of their maximum heart rate.

After intense activity, participants took about 14 minutes longer to fall asleep than they did when sedentary. But there was no difference in sleep time when they engaged in moderate activities.

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Additionally, participants only had about an hour to recover before going to bed, which just may not have been enough time. If you prefer night workouts, be sure to plan some time to shower, change and rest before expecting to get some shuteye.

So the moral of the story? Almost any kind of exercise will help your sleep, but if you’re an evening runner or gym goer, give yourself a few hours to wind down before sinking into the sheets. Other than that, it all depends on your body and what’s best for you! So get moving! Better sleep awaits!

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