Sleeping (or Taking a Nap) After Working Out – Should I Do It?

You’ve probably read cautionary tales advising you against working out right before bed.

Some studies suggest that if you exercise too late in the day, it can lead to insomnia, which is the inability to fall asleep at night.

To answer the question of whether you should sleep right after a workout, it helps to understand a bit more about your situation.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have problems falling asleep in general? If yes, then proceed with caution. Adding in a late-night workout could make matters worse. However, maybe your insomnia is the result of pent-up energy, and a workout could help. Our best advice is a “try it and see” approach.
  2. Is it difficult to fit a workout into your busy schedule? Many experts recommend early morning or afternoon gym sessions, but that might not be feasible for you. Rather than give up on the idea of working out altogether, we suggest fitting your exercise into your schedule whenever possible. Then see if it negatively impacts your bedtime.

Types of Exercise

Aerobic

Aerobic and cardio are synonymous. This type of exercise involves moving major muscle groups continuously to elevate your heart rate and induce a sweat. Aerobic activity can be low-intensity, like a brisk walk, or swimming; or it can be high intensity like running, rowing, playing a sport such as tennis, etc.

When engaging in aerobic activity, it’s recommended that your heart rate is at 55 to 85 percent of its max capacity. This gets your blood pumping and oxygen flowing.

Anaerobic

Strength training using resistance or weights is the primary anaerobic activity as it doesn’t require the same oxygen inputs; hence the word “anaerobic,” which means without oxygen. This type of exercise strengthens and tones muscles while also improving coordination and balance. Examples of anaerobic activities include weight lifting, push-ups, pull-ups, plyometric training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training).

people exercising at fitness gym

Flexibility

Stretching is a type of flexibility exercise that keeps your muscles relaxed and able to move freely. Without stretching either before or after a workout, you’re more prone to injuries like tears and pulls. Yoga is also a fantastic activity for flexibility.

What Exercise Does to Your Body

In addition to getting you closer to six-pack abs, exercise does more to your body than meets the eye. Yes, it promotes weight loss and muscle mass, but it also boosts your mood by sending a rush of endorphins through your system. These are happy hormones that elevate your state of mind. You’ve probably heard the term “runners’ high.”

Runners are notorious for being excessively happy after a long run, which baffles most people.

The rush of oxygen and increased blood flow can also stimulate your brain, heart, and other vital organs, leading to a healthier mind and body.

Pros of Sleeping Immediately

Every person is different, but many people prefer a workout right before bed due to the following benefits:

  • Sleep right after a workout allows your body time to repair and grow muscle tissue.
  • Exercising can make you feel tired immediately after, which could promote sleep.
fitness woman holding bottle of water

Cons of Sleeping Immediately

Going to bed right away isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone. Here are the cons:

  • You may burn fewer calories if you go to bed right after as opposed to staying awake and moving around. However, this is not a hard fact, and there is conflicting evidence to suggest that working out right before going to bed or taking a nap can actually promote weight loss.
  • An intense workout can make you feel “wound up” and unable to go to bed right afterward.
  • Exercising increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so elevated amounts can prevent sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will immediate sleep after exercise promote weight loss?

The short answer is that it depends on who you ask. Some experts will caution that if you stop moving around, you’re burning fewer calories, so going to bed immediately after a workout slows your metabolism. Others argue that you tend to burn more fat while you’re asleep, so if you’ve given your body a jumpstart with a workout, you’ll be able to lose weight more easily.

Our verdict is that exercise, in general, helps you lose weight. We know it’s not always easy to fit it into your schedule, so if a late-night workout is the only time you have, then we say that’s better than not working out at all.

Why do I feel sleepy after a workout?

Exercise takes a lot of energy! You may feel an immediate rush of energy in the few minutes following a workout, but once your brain realizes that the activity burst is over, it’s time for recovery mode. Rest and relaxation are a must after exercise, and a meal to refuel may be in order.

If you’re feeling sleepy immediately after an aerobic or cardio session, it could be a sign that you’ve overdone it. If you’re not used to working out, remember to start off slow and at a reasonable pace. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and those six-pack abs are going to take time to develop, too.

tired woman with towel and water wiping face

Is it good to nap after exercise?

Listen to your body, and if you feel drowsy after a workout, then by all means, take a nap. It can be good to nap after exercising because it helps repair tissue and speeds recovery. Depending on the type of exercise you do, a short rest may be essential. For example, endurance athletes like marathon runners need more bedtime than the average person because of the hormones released during their activities.

The specific hormones we’re referring to are called cytokines. They interact with your immune system and growth systems in your body, so it makes sense that they’ll tell you that it’s time to take a break after an intense cardio session.

Conclusion


It seems like every day, the “science” is changing. Once upon a time, cigarettes were recommended by four out of five doctors, and eggs caused heart attacks. There’s not much science one way or the other to support or refute the idea of sleeping after working out, so we recommend giving it a try and then seeing how, and if, it affects you.

Sources and References:

  1. Better Sleep Found by Exercising on a Regular Basis – psychologytoday.com
  2. Effects of exercise on sleep – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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Author: Sleep Advisor

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The Sleep Advisor