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Working out before sleeping may prevent insomnia.
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Your health matters to you. You eat the right things. You work out regularly. You get the right amount of sleep. But when it comes to working out and sleeping, it can be hard to know if sleeping right after a workout provides benefits or hurts your health.
Battling Insomnia with Workouts
If you have insomnia, a disorder that prevents you from achieving adequate sleep, working out before you go to bed might encourage sleepiness. A critical review conducted by Brazilian researchers and published in the 2012 issue of the journal "Clinics" indicates that exercising results in better sleep and might be a potential treatment for insomnia. Some sleep specialists recommend working out five hours prior to sleeping, as the resultant body temperature changes -- an increase, followed by a decrease -- prompts your body to sleep. Depending on how fast your body temperature spikes and dips, you may benefit with less time between exercising and sleeping. Dr. Alex Chediak, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, suggests that the hormones released by exercise may also make you sleepy. Whether your workout can battle insomnia depends on the vigor of your exercise; too intense, and you may make insomnia worse.
Workout Timing and Performance
If the only time in your day to work out is right before bed, you're reaping benefits because your muscles are already warmed up. Phyllis Zee, M.D., a professor of circadian biology at Northwestern University, suggests that the ideal time to work out is late afternoon or early evening due to optimal body function; however, even if you work out later, just before your bedtime, your body may be better primed for the activity -- and it should not keep you from getting a good night's sleep. A study published in the March 2011 issue of the "Journal of Sleep Research" indicates that engaging in a hardcore workout late at night doesn't negatively impact sleep quality in those without insomnia. While this was a small study, a larger and more comprehensive study undertaken by the National Sleep Foundation in 2013 confirms that exercising right before you go to bed helps you sleep. MayoClinic.com cautions that exercising immediately before bed is not for everyone. Vigorous exercise -- such as marathon training -- can trigger restless leg syndrome, which can keep you from falling asleep. Take notes about how you feel right after exercising and if it stymies your ability to fall asleep at that time.
Sleeping, Exercise and Weight Loss
Sleeping right after a workout may promote weight loss. Working out builds muscle, and increased muscle mass results in a faster metabolism -- this helps you burn calories faster, which can help with weight loss. While you sleep your body burns fat more efficiently than when you are awake, so you get double the benefits. Further, not getting enough sleep can negate the weight-loss benefits of working out. A small-scale study published in the October 2010 "Annals of Internal Medicine" suggests that not getting enough sleep may reduce the metabolism.
Sleeping After a Workout
To benefit the most from sleeping right after exercise, get the recommended amount of sleep. Your sleep needs may vary based on your age and gender; genetics may also factor into your sleep needs. On average, however, the National Sleep Foundation maintains that adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Sleeping too little after your exercise routine can decrease alertness and performance during your waking hours, while sleeping too much may increase your risk of accidents and illness.