If you are a fan of running at night, you may have wondered how it can affect the body. After all, our bodies are delicate instruments, designed to perform functions more effectively at different times during the day.
Modern life means we often have no choice but to rack up our miles at dusk, whether that’s on the sidewalks or using one of the best treadmills on the market. The good news is that running at night generally doesn’t negatively impact your performance, although as always, the effects can vary from person to person.
How does running at night affect sleep?
One of the main problems with running at night is the negative impact it has on sleep patterns. However, according to physiotherapist Gina Reinge, who has worked with professional athletes for years, “the jury is quite out on this one.”
Reinge states that “it seems to depend on the time of your exercise.” Pointing to research published in Sports Medicine (opens in new tab)She adds, “Some studies have shown that two to three hours of exercise before bed will not affect your sleep and may even improve your sleep patterns.”
Gina Reinge is an experienced physiotherapist who has worked with professional athletes for many years, including four years at the High Performance Center in Bath, UK, with top-level international judo players. She runs a multidisciplinary clinic with her husband.
Reinge adds that while several studies have pointed to the benefits of morning exercise, such as one in the morning, Journal of Adolescent Health (opens in new tab)the effects of nighttime running depend on how close you are running to when you go to bed for the night.
“It’s generally thought that vigorous exercise less than an hour before bedtime isn’t the best idea,” she explains. “It can negatively affect your sleep patterns by taking longer to fall asleep and waking up more often at night, although this seems to depend on your age and how fit you are.”
Monitoring your sleep and energy levels is the best way to determine whether or not running late at night is working for you, but in general, if it happens to be a better fit for your lifestyle and doesn’t keep you awake, there’s nothing wrong with it. to worry about when it comes to sleep levels.
Can Running at Night Affect Your Performance?
And while you’re actually running? Running at night usually means you’ve been up all day, expending energy, and yet those who enjoy running often feel it can boost energy levels, not to mention it’s a great way to mentally release the stress of the day.
Whether you stick to this idea can depend a lot on which part of the day you feel more productive.
As Reinge puts it: “Early birds seem to peak earlier in the day, in terms of performance, than night owls [check out a study in Sports Medicine (opens in new tab)]. Performance generally tends to peak more in the afternoon, but your own individual circadian rhythms will influence this.
“If you’re a night owl, you’re less likely to perform at your peak in a morning competition, and if you’re a morning person, you’re less likely to perform at your best in the evening.”
These claims are supported by a study published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms (opens in new tab).
Are there any benefits to running at night?
There are a few potential benefits to a nighttime run, although research in this area has not been conducted widely enough to make definitive findings.
“There is some suggestion that aerobic exercise in the evening may help control blood glucose levels in overweight adults,” explains Reinge, adding that “one study showed a significantly improved level of glycemic control when comparing morning and evening exercises, although this has not been confirmed by other studies.” This was noted in a study published in Diabetologia (opens in new tab).
As mentioned, better sleep is a potential positive side effect of nighttime running, while it has also been suggested that heart rate recovery may be aided by aerobic exercise in the evening, but again, there is little research on this topic.
Are there any downsides to running at night?
Finally, what about any drawbacks? “Apart from the obvious safety considerations of running alone at night, there don’t seem to be any physiological drawbacks to running at night,” Reinge believes. However, she adds, “If you get up early in the morning, this time may not suit your body.”
Ultimately, the unique factors that characterize you will determine whether an evening ride is the right time for you to make those precious miles. Why not give it a try and see how it works for you?