Are There Benefits to Working Out At Night?
People often say that exercising at night can mess with your sleep cycle, making you unable to fall asleep afterwards. Has the myth been invented by those who need an excuse for skipping after-work workouts, or does night exercising really interfere with your ability to fall asleep?
The desirable outcomes of physical training include increased heart rate, raised core body temperature, and the release of adrenaline. However, all this also depends on whether you are a night owl or not. Maybe you like to train after your evening snack, go running at 10 PM, or lift weights while watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, or even the Late Late Show with James Corden.
Working Out Close To Bedtime
Men who experience difficulties falling asleep after a powerful workout should certainly avoid working out right before bedtime. For the most part, training at any time of day will help you sleep, but your body needs some time to rest and release the after-workout tension. It’s really difficult to wind down fast after a midnight-hour yoga session or cardio workout, when the brain is active and the level of adrenaline is high.
If this is the case with your everyday routine as well, than the best strategy for allowing your body temperature, heart rate, and adrenaline levels to stabilize is to give yourself a couple of hours between sleep time and workout time, and ensure you will go to bed tired, but not pumped.
On the other hand, the results of a 2011 study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) indicate that sleep quality is not disturbed by vigorous late-night exercise. The effects were examined by measuring cardiac autonomic activity, as well as subjective, polysomnographic, and actigraphic sleep quality. In 2013, a poll with 1,000 participants was conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, which showed that an astonishing 83% of those who have trained at any time of day reported sleeping better! It seems that the majority of people find that their sleep quality isn’t adversely affected by exercising late at night. Only 3% of late-day vigorous exercisers slept worse on their exercise days, while 50% of moderate and vigorous exercises slept better.
Human Reaction To Light
Light is the biggest environmental cue or signal recognized by our bodies. We have all adapted to the signals in our environment that help our body prompt the activation of certain processes and systems. This is called a circadian rhythm – the regulation of human bodily systems based on parts of the day. The human body has evolved to sustain itself and function automatically, so the brain can deal with higher-level tasks by devoting more energy to them. In short, this means you have become wired to sleep at night and be alert during the day – however, if you so desire, you are able to rewire your body and get used to a different life pattern. However, this will cost you, as studies have proven that disrupting your natural sleep cycle has an adverse effect.
Biological Rhythms Differ
People have different biological rhythms, so we should base our discussion on the influences of performance on sleeping habits on this simple fact. Having a consistent sleep cycle can improve your performances in different activities, improve your cognitive abilities, and help you prevent injury and unwanted stress. When it comes to differences between circadian rhythm trends, waking time tends to be of the greatest influence – a person waking up at 7 AM and exercising at 7 PM will feel differently than one who gets up at 10AM and is about the exercise at the same time.
One of the reasons for this difference lies in hormonal levels, which peak at different times. Testosterone levels are on the rise during the day, and are at their best in the late afternoon, while cortisol levels are the highest when you get out of bed, and slowly diminish as night rolls into town. The ratio of these two hormones in your blood is what gets you into an anabolic state. The best ratio is achieved in the late afternoon and early evening – which is what makes this the perfect time to work on strength and muscle hypertrophy.
Larks vs Owls
Larks are those that rise from sleep earlier, and they wake up full of energy and enthusiasm. As opposed to them, owls need a few hours to feel alert and get functioning. They wake later and more slowly. However, the majority of the population is indifferent, meaning that these two groups form a minority. Larks perform better at the beginning of a day, while owls find their performance better in the late afternoon or evening.
In the evening, mental focus is waning, but lung performance is at its best, strength and flexibility are at their peak, as well as body temperature, stamina and coordination. However, the night is when bodily processes should be slowing down as a preparation for sleep. In order to achieve that, the human body produces more melatonin (starting around 9 PM), to get the body ready for rest.
The body’s best potential for most vigorous performance is in the afternoon and evening, when it’s in peak condition (however, individual differences must not be neglected). Based on the circadian rhythm and body temperature, you actually have a wide window of time to schedule your workouts. Anytime between 14:30 and 20:30 will get you the best results. If you plan on doing a workout that will last longer than an hour, you should schedule it a bit earlier, to provide your body with enough time to wind down.
If you are, on the other hand, a lark, and wish to get down to business in the early hours, you can give yourself a boost with a caffeine-based supplement. Something in the range of 3mg per kilogram of body weight is all you need, as caffeine will lower the testosterone/cortisol ratio. This will not be as good as training later during the day, but it will definitely provide results. However, you do need to remember that taking caffeine supplements on a daily basis over a longer period of time will develop a resistance to the beneficial effects of the supplement.
The Benefits of Working Out at Night
Peak performance. If you’re not much of a morning person, you just might feel stronger when the sun goes down and your workout will be more vigorous. Even though calories burned at 8 AM and 8 PM are different, your performance depends on your mood shift and energy levels throughout the day. After training, you can feel refreshed and full of energy.
No rush. Gyms are actually packed in the morning, so by hitting it in the evening hours, you could have the space and equipment all for yourself. There’s no waiting for dumbbells and treadmills. There’s no stressing about whether you’ll make it to work or not, because what awaits you is a post-workout snack and an hour or two of relaxation. The streets and parks are less crowded as well, so you can jog more freely outside. Of course, you should take care of your safety first and wear reflective tape for clothing, so to be visible to vehicle drivers. Experience the freedom of night runs.
De-stress. Achieving mental balance is quite important for functioning well on a daily basis. If you’ve spent the last 8 or more hours working or running errands, then a good physical workout is what will get you decompressed and balanced. Hit the weights or jump on the treadmill, focus on your movements, and forget about your day for a minute. Perhaps this kind of stress busting is really what you need. Also, after-workout yoga stretches are a great way to ease out of a powerful practice and wrap up for the day.
Growth and recovery. Growth hormone is secreted while you sleep. This means that, after a powerful weightlifting session, a healthy post-workout meal, and a quick shower, your body is ready for growth and rest. While you sleep, the body repairs and recovers at night. One of the main factors involved in exercise recovery is growth hormone, which assists in repairing muscle and breaking down fat.
Getting to be more social. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone in the evening than in the morning. Most people aren’t that talkative first thing in the morning. They are just in a hurry to finish their training and then rush to work. Evening exercisers are more sociable probably because they make going to the gym their only evening plan. This makes it easier to find workout buddies and share some stories and laugh.
So, are you a lark or an owl? Can you start performing squats first thing in the morning or when the moon rises? Your performance depends on the type of person you are, because you should take advantage of the time of day when you know that your body is at its peak. Night exercising has a variety of benefits, but if it messes with your sleep cycle and daily routine, then it probably won’t be worth that much to you.”
About The Author
Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and has spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for a better life.
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