Will running at night ruin your sleep?

Have you ever forced your run in late at night before you went to bed? A study on sleep published in the Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that you can run in the evening without disrupting your sleep, as long as you avoid vigorous activity one hour before bedtime.

The researchers examined 23 previous studies that evaluated the transition between being awake and asleep. They found that adults who went for an evening run compared with similar adults who do not run found that running did not affect sleep. Running has seemed to help people fall asleep faster and spend more time in deep sleep. However, those who went for a run less than one hour before bedtime took longer to fall asleep and slept less well.

Running at any point of the day can be added to the list of good sleep habits, but it’s best to avoid strenuous physical activity late in the evening, as it raises your body temperature, counteracting your internal body clock, which generally lowers your body temperature before you fall asleep. Running releases adrenaline, which may make it harder to fall asleep.

If the only time you can run is before bed, try experimenting with your timing. Go for two or three runs an hour or so before bed during the week and see how your body reacts. If your sleep is not affected, you can try pushing your run back until you find the point where it starts to disrupt your ability to fall asleep.

If you have no option but to exercise right before bedtime, here are some measures to try:

  • Letting your heart rate and breathing slowly return to normal or resting level.
  • Take a warm shower after your run to help get your body temperature down.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking water after your run.
  • Doing breathing or relaxation exercises in bed can help bring down your heart rate and arousal levels.

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