Longer hours at the office may make for later nights at the gym. But good news for fitness fanatics—the health industry has caught on.
The number of health clubs that stay open 24 hours has soared from just couple hundred five years ago to more than 2,000 today, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
Experts, however, recommend that you avoid vigorous exercise before bed. Physical activity naturally stimulates your system, increasing your body temperature, which delays the body’s natural onset of sleep.
So what if evening workouts are best for your schedule? Follow these simple tips to get the best of both worlds—a good workout and a good night’s sleep.
Choose Your Workout Wisely
Your first move: Steer clear of any high-intensity activity, says BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., a Men’s Health fitness adviser and CEO of StreamFit.com. Avoid cardio because it will increase your heart rate, and strength training because it excites your nervous system. Also nix metabolic conditioning which will energize you like crazy, says Gaddour.
His recommendation: Try isometric work—a type of strength training done in static positions—like planks, pushups, squats, hip bridges, and split squat holds. Not only are these exercises less intense than dynamic exercise, isometric work won’t completely jack up your metabolism and heart rate, says Gaddour.
Score Extra Melatonin
When the lights go out, the hormone in the body that control your internal clock, called melatonin, ignites your sleep cycle. Drink some cherry juice to naturally boost your levels. Scientists from the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research found that people who drank an ounce of cherry juice twice a day for a week scored an extra 25 minutes of shuteye per night. Why? The researchers explained that tart cherry juice is laced with tryptophan, which transforms into melatonin in your body. Raspberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and strawberries can have the same effect.
Another alternative: Take it in supplement form a few hours before dark falls. Researchers from MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences found that an effective dose for sleep is 0.3 milligrams (mg). You won’t find such a small dose in stores—supplement makers tend to think more is better. So pick up a pill cutter and take a quarter or half of a 1 mg pill, such as Natrol Melatonin ($14 for 180, natrol.com).
Get “Bed Ready”
Once you’re done with the gym and back home, it’s time to switch gears. Steer clear of loud music, obnoxious television, and bright lights, says Sam Sugar, M.D., director of sleep services at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Miami. “That exposure to light will prevent your pineal gland from secreting melatonin,” says Sugar.
One thing you can do to help the onset of sleep: Hop in the shower. A decrease in body temperature signals your body it’s time to sleep, says Sugar. So if you hop in a warm shower post-gym (which let’s hope you would do that anyways), it temporarily spikes your temperature. Therefore, once you get in bed and your temp begins to drop, it will serve as a natural kick into snooze-ville.