Evening exercise won’t disrupt sleep, experts say

5 Mar

I am not an early bird, and in the world of runners, that may be a bit unusual.

It seems that most runners I know climb out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to hit the roads before the day begins. Not me. I’ve always said I can barely walk first thing in the morning, let alone run. If my running depended on leaving my warm, comfy bed in the chill of darkness, I would be a sloth.

Photo: Jeremy Brooks

A common question asked by newbies is, When is the best time to run? And more often than not, the response they are given is: First thing in the morning. The thinking has been that it gets the blood going for the day, you make sure you get your workout completed and exercising late in the day will make it difficult to get to sleep.

For me, a cup of coffee (or 10) will get the blood going, my workout would never get completed in the pre-dawn, and exercising at night doesn’t hamper my sleep at all.

Now, there’s some scientific evidence to back up the notion that exercising at night will not ruin everyone’s sleep.

“The timing of exercise ought to be driven by when the pool’s lap lane is open or when your tennis partner is available or when you have time to get away from work, not by some statement that has never been validated,” said Barbara Phillips, a University of Kentucky sleep medicine specialist, as quoted in a USA Today story.

Phillips’ comment was prompted by the 2013 Sleep in America Poll, sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation, and several recent studies.

The poll, which was released Monday, March 4, 2013, found that people who exercise at any time of the day sleep better than those who don’t excercise. And it found that those who exercise within 4 hours of bedtime sleep just as well as those who exercise earlier in the day.

Much of the advice in the past has not been based on scientific studies and has relied on anecdotal evidence. And, the USA Today story says, for some people, exercising late in the day may disrupt their sleep. But that need not be the case for everyone.

Said University of South Carolina researcher Shawn Youngstedt, “We have very busy lives now. For a lot of people, evening is the most convenient time.”

So it is with me.

In addition to my early-morning aversion, running after work just seems to fit into my schedule. I generally head out on the roads right after work; in the summer, we may eat first and run afterwards, which allows a bit more time for the heat of the day to subside.

I’m generally finished by 7:30 or 8 at the latest, although I have finished as late as 9 o’clock if I’m waiting for a rainshower to pass or the temps to fall.

And I’ll have to say, I have never felt that my exercise has hindered my ability to fall asleep. So it’s good to know that there’s now some scientific studies to back up what I have long believed.


6 Responses to “Evening exercise won’t disrupt sleep, experts say”

  1. runnerstrailspin March 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    I can do morning or night…i prefer night as well, but that is family time…i run faster right when i get home from work around 7.


    • msmidt March 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

      Yeah, my kids are mostly grown now, and my wife’s a runner, so I have a good situation.


  2. Jim Brennan March 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    Man after my own heart! I run before dawn and after dusk, and my advice to other runners… always carry your running gear with you, because you never know when the opportunity will strike.


    • msmidt March 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      I admire those who can get in a run as part of their commute. Unfortunately, I’m a suit and tie type of guy, so it’s hard to incorporate my run with a commute. Fortunately, I live in a relatively small town in a relatively rural area, so getting home and then getting on the road is very simple.


  3. gallivance.net March 7, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    Mark, I have nothing against late day running, but for years I’ve been a early morning guy. But primarily, this has been a function of living and working in some very hot places. When I lived in Khartoum, Sudan I was a member of the Hash House Harriers, who always had their runs in the late pm after work. I don’t need to tell you that this is the Sahara Desert. I thought I’d die from the heat. But, that which does not kill me … ~James


    • msmidt March 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

      Some people function well in the morning, some in the evening, and some at any time. I’m just glad there’s now some scientific basis that says late-day running won’t hurt your sleep.

      And mad props to running in the Sahara at any time of day or night!

      — Mark


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