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Time your workout so it won’t interrupt your sleep, researchers say

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Montreal — If you think squeezing in a quick workout just before bedtime can help improve your sleep, you may be disappointed with the results, according to researchers from Concordia University.

Using data from 15 previous studies, the researchers looked at variables such as when study participants exercised as well as their fitness level, the intensity and duration of their workouts, and specific types of exercises.

Results show that exercising within two hours of bedtime had negative effects on sleep, such as taking longer to fall asleep and decreased sleep duration. However, when workouts ended two or more hours before going to bed, the participants often fell asleep faster and slept longer.

Additionally, high-intensity exercise in the early evening “promoted sleep onset and improved sleep duration, especially when performed by (normally) sedentary subjects.” High-intensity exercise, “regardless of timing,” played a role in slight decreases in rapid-eye-movement sleep.

“Studies suggest that decreases in REM sleep can impact cognitive tasks negatively if the information is complex and emotionally stimulating, but not if the information is easy or neutral,” a university report states.

Study author Emmanuel Frimpong, a postdoctoral fellow at the university’s Sleep, Cognition and Neuroimaging Lab, says in the report: “Individuals should also keep to a consistent exercise schedule, as exercising at different times of the evening could cause sleep disturbances. Individuals should also consider whether they are morning people or evening people. High-intensity exercise performed late in the evening can result in sleep disturbance for morning-type people.

“And lastly, sleep hygiene strategies should also be carried out, such as taking a shower between the cessation of exercise and bedtime, and avoiding eating heavy meals or drinking a lot of water before going to bed.”

The study was published online in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews.

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