“I can’t exercise late or I will be up all night”. True or False?

Today we examine whether this is training fact or fiction. Many a time have I heard the excuse, “It’s too late now” and I personally don't exercise too late as best as I can avoid it as I don’t want to end up staring at my ceiling until the early hours of the morning, but according to research if I trained later I could be snoring before you can say “count sheep”.

Running at Night

The Myth: You can’t sleep after exercise

Most people's theory behind this is the adrenaline rush from working out will keep you up for hours after a workout. It’s commonly believed you should avoid training before sleep like you would avoid Caffeine. Throughout the day, our body temperatures go up naturally and then fall back down at night. Our decreasing body temperature signals to the brain it’s time to go to sleep, which explains why we can stay up for hours on end on our holidays and yet in winter we are ready for our PJ’s within hours of our last mouthful of dinner. When you exercise it raises your body's temperature, this helps the body burn more calories and is why many thermogenic ‘weight loss pills’ (I use the inverted commas as I’m sceptical as to whether these actually contribute to any form of healthy weight loss) will raise the body's core temperature. After training the body’s temperature can be raised by as much as 2℃. This rise in body temperature can take up to 5 hours to drop back down depending on the intensity of your workout, the average time to cool down being about 3 hours. As we all know sleep is so important for our health, supporting recovery, cognitive function energy and, of course, mood, it is no wonder many of us have been avoiding late night sessions.

Busted: Exercise helps sleep

Research by The Journal of Sleep found that vigorous exercise late at night made no disturbance to the length or quality of sleep. Participants exercised vigorously for 35 minutes before they slept vs no exercise at all and found that they slept just as well when they were rested as they did when they had trained, in fact, the only difference was in the cardiac autonomic control of the heart during the first few hours of sleeping, the quality of their sleep did not change.

Another study by The National Sleep Foundation found that exercise is good for sleep, regardless of the time of day. In fact according to their polls, 83% of people said they slept better when they exercised even if it was late at night, than those who didn’t. They came to the conclusion that exercise was good for your sleep no matter what form of exercise was done, when, or how. Researchers believe physical activity improves sleep by helping to reduce levels of stress and anxiety.

The Myth: Exercise increases adrenaline which keeps you awake

Busted. Exercise reduces stress hormones in the body such as cortisol and adrenaline. Research by Harvard Health also found that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins. These are chemicals released in the brain which work as natural painkillers and mood enhancers. It’s these feel-good endorphins which give you the post-exercise buzz rather than a shot of adrenaline. That’s also why you get a ‘runner's high’.

Bottom line: It’s always a good time to workout!

As long as you can fit it in, anytime is a good time to exercise and it should help you get to sleep as well. Chances are if you have difficulty sleeping, exercise isn't the culprit. Consistency is key with both sleep and exercise, get your body into a routine and you will be rewarded.

Go for that run around the block before bed, swim yourself to sleep or book into that 9 pm class you’ve been avoiding. It’s not too late.