The practice of physical activity at the end of the day, and in particular in the evening, can influence the quality of your sleep. To limit the risk of disturbances, how long should you wait between the workout and the moment of going to bed?

Physical exercise is often positively associated with the quality of sleep, due to the combined effect of fatigue, relaxation, relaxation, well-being induced by physical activity. However, things are not so simple. A Canadian team (Concordia University) cross-referenced data from fifteen “solid” international studies to determine, in adults, the effect of a physical exercise session in the hours before bedtime.

More or less than two hours

The authors focused their attention as a priority on variables such as the timing of exercise (early or late evening) and the number of hours between the end of a workout and bedtime (less two hours, about two hours, and two to four hours). Secondary variables included level of physical fitness, type of exercise, and its intensity and duration.

The researchers explain in essence: “Overall, when exercise is completed more than two hours before bedtime, there are benefits in terms of sleep quality, including the facilitation of the initial phase – falling asleep – and increasing the total duration”. 

In contrast, when exercise is completed less than two hours before going to bed, there is a negative impact on sleep quality, as people take longer to fall asleep and sleep duration decreases. Obviously, this is aggregate data, which particular cases may dispute.

Cycling, the most beneficial for sleep

Other aspects of the analysis show in particular that cycling was found to be the most beneficial physical activity both for falling asleep and for the deep sleep phase, while intensive exercises lasting 30 to 60 minutes markedly improve the initial phase of sleep.

The experts stress the importance of sticking to a regular schedule, as exercising from day to day at different times of the evening could disrupt sleep. They add that high-intensity exercises practiced late in the evening are more penalizing for early risers, with a higher risk of sleep disorders. 

Finally, it is also about adopting sleep hygiene strategies, such as taking a shower between the end of the exercise session and bedtime, avoiding heavy meals, and drinking enough water before going to bed.

Joseph Mandell

Mandell is currently working towards a medical degree from the University of Central Florida. His main passions include kayaking, playing soccer and tasting good food. He covers mostly science, health and environmental stories for the Scientific Origin.