Exercising before bed will help release tension and anxiety, burn calories, help keep you limber and flexible, and likely won't keep you up. A gentle workout may even help you sleep better. Figure out the exercises that work for you and add them to your evening routine, because nighttime doesn't mean no-time when it comes to working out.
No Scientific Fact
Calling the relationship between sleep and exercise “complicated,” Shawn Youngstedt, an assistant professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia who studies exercise and sleep, says you’re as likely to fall asleep after exercise as you are to stay awake, dispelling the notion that exercise in all cases will keep you up. In fact, in one of Youngstedt’s studies, men who exercised up to one half-hour before going to bed had no trouble falling asleep. Some exercise, he says, is better than no exercise.
Tuck in Your Abs
If you watch television at night, think about pairing a program with an ab workout. Core-strengthening exercises are usually a low-impact way of tightening your tummy. From planks and side planks -- positions that require you to balance on your hands and feet while zipping in your abs -- to crunches, curl-ups and seated leg raises, you can easily target your abs without needing more than an empty space on the floor. Challenge yourself to do as many reps as you can during a commercial break and keep trying to increase this number.
Front, Side and Back Bends
Incorporating some type of bend into your workout routine will help you become more flexible but it will also increase blood flow to your extremities, and in the case of forward bends, to your head. Bending forward, backward or to the side won’t get your heart rate up so high that it will affect your sleep. You can tighten your abs to help target this muscle group as well. Bending may not yield the same results that running on a treadmill for 30 minutes will, but even moderate exercise can help keep you healthy, says the Mayo Clinic. Try bending 20 times to the front, back and to either side, and repeat this routine three times before bed.
Certain gentle yoga poses can help slow your heart rate and ease you into sleep, according to “Yoga Journal.” The more regularly you incorporate these exercises into your nighttime routine, you’ll likely sleep better as well, since these stretches can help ease tension and anxiety, which may keep you up at night. Poses to try include Legs-on-the-Wall pose, gentle twists like the Winding-Down twist and a comfortable seated position like Lotus pose.
- Mayo Clinic: Exercise Intensity: Why It Matters, How It’s Measured
- The American Council on Exercise: Function Follows Fitness
- The American Council on Exercise: The Best Time to Exercise
- MSNBC: Is Exercising at Night Really So Bad?
- Fitness Magazine: Eight-Minute Workout: Five Relaxing Yoga Poses for Better Sleep
- Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses
- The American Heart Association: Heart Rate Variability During Specific Sleep Stages
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.