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The Matt Walker Podcast

#42 - Sleep and Exercise Pt. 4

The Matt Walker Podcast
The Matt Walker Podcast

On today’s episode, Matt goes beyond the if and the what type of exercise to discuss the when. Which is to say, does the timing of exercise matter when it comes to sleep improvements? Based on his experience working on insomnia, Matt would previously have recommended avoiding mid-to-late evening exercise as the resulting rise in core temperature could harm your chances for good sleep. However, it’s since been discovered that the evidence is quite the contrary, mostly allowing us to abandon the myth of evening exercise as the archenemy of good sleep.

But how late is late? How close to bedtime can exercise be done before things actually break? Studies have shown that exercise 3.5 hours before bed boosts sleep by fifteen minutes and significantly reduces the amount of time spent awake at night, while individuals who did weightlifting or resistance training two hours before bed fell asleep in half the time it would normally take and experienced an almost 20% boost in deep non-REM sleep in the first few hours of the night. Getting even closer to bed, an all-men study showed that neither cardio nor weight/resistance training ninety minutes before bed did any damage to sleep (though there was no marked sleep improvement either). But at sixty minutes, there was an impact—a reduction in the total amount and overall efficiency of sleep. Therefore, it seems that exercise before bed will more than likely result in very enviable sleep benefits, so long as it’s done more than an hour before bed (and ideally ninety minutes before).

In addition, it’s been discovered that exercising across different times of day can make a difference to the amount of at least three specific sleep features: REM sleep, light non-REM sleep, and time spent tossing and turning awake at night. First, exercising in the middle part of the day (i.e. three to eight hours before bed) is associated with moderately less REM sleep. Second, morning or evening exercise provides the nice benefit of spending less time in less-restorative, light non-REM sleep. And third, working out in the evening (at least three hours before bedtime) leads to more efficient sleep and less tossing and turning.

Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.

The good people at InsideTracker are one of the sponsors of this week's episode, and they are generously offering a special 25% off any one of their programs for anyone who uses the above link during the time window of this episode. InsideTracker is a personalized biometric platform that analyzes your blood and your DNA to better understand what's happening inside of you and offers suggestions regarding things that you can do to better try and adjust some of those numbers, optimize them, and, as a result, optimize you.

Also sponsoring this week are those fine people at Athletic Greens, and they are generously offering 3 benefits for anyone who uses the above link for their first order: 1) a discount on your order; 2) a one-year free supply of vitamin D; 3) five free travel packs. Athletic Greens is a nutrition drink that combines a full complement of antioxidants, minerals, and biotics, together with essential vitamins. Matt’s been using it for several years now because he’s serious about his health, and because he did his research on the science and ingredients in Athletic Greens and thinks its scientific data can be taken as ground truth.

As always, if you have thoughts or feedback you’d like to share, please reach out to Matt on Instagram.

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