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Why should you avoid high-intensity workout before sleep?
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Why should you avoid high-intensity workout before sleep?

Intense exercises increase your heart rate, body temperature and hormone levels, which can get in the way of getting a good night's sleep
Experts advise against intense workouts before sleep, as they increase heart rate, body temperature and hormone levels
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

Any form of exercise is good — time, duration and intensity notwithstanding. This gets further credence when we consider the fact that people find it hard to work out regularly as they slip into a sedentary lifestyle spiral. To address this, many squeeze in workouts before sleep after they are done with the professional and personal commitments of the day — ‘something is better than nothing’ being their mantra. However, indiscriminate exercises, especially high-intensity workouts, before sleep can have detrimental effects, say experts while listing out the alternatives.

High-intensity workout before sleep: Why avoid it?

High-intensity workouts impact sleep as they affect the body temperature and other physiological processes. “Our body maintains a low temperature before sleep, and doing high-intensity exercises increases it, affecting the sleep quality and recovery process along with energy levels the next morning,” says Biswajit Sahoo, fitness coach and nutritionist at FITTR, Bangalore.

This disruption continues into the subsequent days too. The body maintains a certain temperature throughout the day, and an increase in it at night due to high-intensity activities affects this thermoregulatory mechanism, which in turn affects sleep.

High-intensity workouts (such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or interval training) before sleep increase stress levels as well. Cortisol levels are highest during the day, gradually decreasing as it goes by. If you do intense exercises at night, your cortisol levels will rise above the optimum value. This not only hampers the body’s recovery process but also sleep since cortisol needs to be maintained in lesser amounts to induce better sleep. “High-intensity workouts release happy hormones like dopamine and endorphins, producing more energy, which makes our body more active rather than inducing a calm state that promotes sleep,” says Sinoj VP, master fitness trainer at the Rejuvenation Fitness Group, New Delhi.

When to do high-intensity exercise?

It is ideal to exercise two to three hours before sleep. However, if one is hard-pressed for time, leaving a gap of one hour between a high-intensity workout and sleep works. This is enough to slow down the heart rate, which increases while working out. There are a lot of cool-down techniques, such as meditation and recovery methods, that can help slow down the heart rate. “In essence, deep breathing, massages, meditation and stretching exercises can help slow down your heart rate after a high-intensity workout session. In addition, taking showers will help lower the body temperature,” adds Sahoo.

How to plan workouts before sleep

If you want to exercise in the evenings, monitor your sleep pattern while giving the body enough time to adjust to the routine. However, if you find that your sleep is being affected, you can either lower the intensity of the exercises or change the timing of the workout. “It is important to avoid intense workouts daily. One can do basic or low-intensity workouts before sleep so that the recovery does not get hampered,” shares Sahoo.

Low-intensity activities like meditation promote restfulness and help slow down the autonomic nervous system, which promotes sleep. Everyone has a wind-down routine, which includes screen time, reading books, listening to music, talking to somebody or taking warm showers to induce sleep. If you’re not sleeping well after a high-intensity workout session, it will affect your productivity the next day. So, if you’re experimenting, do it with caution.

Takeaways

  • Working out before sleep is not advisable, as it affects your body temperature, heart rate and hormone levels. It also disturbs your sleeping pattern.
  • Exercising two to three hours before sleep is ideal.
  • Low-intensity activities like meditation promote restfulness and help slow down the autonomic nervous system, inducing sleep.

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