Does exercising in the evening negatively affect sleep?

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While there is a general consensus that exercising in the morning or afternoon benefits sleep, it’s often recommended to avoid exercising, especially at a high intensity, in the evening in fear of it negatively affecting sleep.

However, according to a meta-analysis published in 2021, an acute bout of high-intensity exercise performed 2–4 hours before bedtime does not disrupt sleep.[1] In fact, performing high-intensity exercise 2 hours before bedtime tends to increase total sleep time (+16 minutes) and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep (−5 minutes). However, longer duration high-intensity exercise (>30–60 minutes) may decrease rapid-eye movement sleep to a small extent (−3%).

In a 7-week study in elite youth soccer players, an evening high-intensity exercise session did not affect sleep quality and slightly increased sleepiness at bedtime, compared to nights where no exercise was performed.[2]

In sum, high-intensity evening exercise does not appear to negatively affect sleep. Careful consideration should be given to pre-workout supplements when exercising in the evening, as products containing caffeine can negatively affect sleep.

1.^Emmanuel Frimpong, Melodee Mograss, Tehila Zvionow, Thien Thanh Dang-VuThe effects of evening high-intensity exercise on sleep in healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysisSleep Med Rev.(2021 Aug 3)
2.^Robey E, Dawson B, Halson S, Gregson W, Goodman C, Eastwood PSleep quantity and quality in elite youth soccer players: a pilot study.Eur J Sport Sci.(2014)