Sometimes running at night just makes life easier, especially on busy days when it seems there isn’t nearly enough time to finish your to-do list. Also, evening runs are ideal for those who turn to exercise as a way to de-stress after a long day. But can running at night ruin your sleep? And therefore, does it make nighttime running counterintuitive to your overall training, considering sleep is crucial for recovery?

Like most conundrums runners contemplate, the answer depends on the runner. Here, we explain how running at night can affect your sleep and what to do if you feel like your nighttime run is worsening your sleep issues.

Does running at night make for a bad night’s sleep?

“In the past, the recommendation was, you really shouldn’t exercise in the evening at all,” Bob Wright, director of lifestyles education at Hilton Head Health tells Runner’s World.

Experts recommended this for two reasons: First, because exercise can increase endorphins, which can reduce sleepiness. Second, because exercise increases one’s core body temperature, which makes it hard to fall asleep, Wright explains.

However, a number of studies suggest the opposite, including a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine in 2019. This research greenlights exercise in the evening as long as you complete vigorous activities, like long runs or workouts, an hour before bedtime.

“For most people, at least mild or moderate exercise doesn’t seem to interfere with sleep very much,” says Scott Kutscher, M.D., clinical associate professor of sleep medicine at Stanford University. But it all depends on the person, he adds.

When we fall asleep, our melatonin levels start to rise, and our body temperatures begin to fall, both of which signal it’s time for bed, Kutscher explains. If you run before bed your core temperature will increase but once you stop, your sweat will help you cool down. This is a passive cooling effect that can actually help some runners fall asleep, he explains.

However, a rise in body temperature before bed can be counterproductive for runners who don’t cool off as easily. For this population, running before bed can make it harder to fall asleep. What’s more: If you’re aiming to re-hydrate and re-fuel postrun, that can also prolong bedtime, Kutcher adds.

In short, both experts agree running before bed will not ruin sleep for most. However, if you have difficulty falling asleep after an evening run, then you might want to reconsider your nighttime routine.

Tips to Help You Sleep Better After a Workout

If you have difficulty sleeping after a long evening run or workout, these tips can help you fall asleep, according to Kutscher and Wright.

1. Time It Right

Plan to stop running at least one hour before bedtime to allow yourself time to literally cool down, Wright says. Keep in mind, there’s no hard and fast rule, so you can use an hour as a benchmark and adjust it as needed.

        2. Add Relaxation Practices

        Incorporate less intense exercise into your cooldown routine to help you transition to sleep. Kutscher suggests adding stretches or yoga after a run to help you relax. During this time, you can also practice mindfulness and breathwork, which also aids sleep, he says.

        Mind-body activities, including yoga or Tai Chi, can aid in falling asleep in general so they’re good options to add to your before-bed routine at any time, Wright adds.

        If you noticed you do have trouble sleeping after an evening run, consider swapping your miles for less intense aerobic exercise. Holding off on your run until the morning can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and improve sleep quality overall, as it provides natural light when you get out of bed (as long as you head outside), Wright adds.

        3. Pay Attention to Pre and Postrun Routines

        Be mindful of what you’re doing both right before and right after your evening run, because that’s what may disrupt your sleep more than running itself.

        For example, consuming caffeinated products before or during a workout might make it harder to fall asleep. Also, if you don’t fuel after a sweat, hunger pangs can disrupt your zzzs.

        If you need a snack after a run and before bed, Kutscher suggests eating foods rich in melatonin, magnesium, and potassium, like cherries or bananas. Keep in mind some people may need more food to replenish after a workout, not just a simple snack, so see what works best for you, keeping note of your nighttime habits so you can pinpoint how different techniques worked for your rest.

        Headshot of Monique Lebrun

        Monique LeBrun joined the editorial staff in October 2021 as the associate health and fitness editor. She has a master’s degree in journalism and has previously worked for ABC news and Scholastic. She is an avid runner who loves spending time outside.

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