Healthier Sleep – Phase 2: Exercise

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So, you may remember a little over a month ago, I began changing some habits that I hoped would lead to better sleep.  The first of these habits was giving up caffeine after 4pm.

After one month, I’ve got that one down, but I’m not sleeping any better.  The month hasn’t been all smooth sailing though.  For example, I’ve caught myself speeding madly towards Starbucks so I could beat my 4pm deadline.  And on more than one occasion, I’ve had to nearly shotgun my afternoon Rockstar to get it down before the bell.  I don’t really think those are the kinds of behaviors I intended to promote, but that’s what happened.

In spite of all that, it really was a pretty successful month.  I had only one day where there was a cheat – and that was while driving the RV in a snowstorm, so I gave myself a pass on that one.  But beyond that – there has been no cheating.  But what hasn’t happened is that I’m not sleeping any longer, or any better.

So now it’s time for Phase 2

Which brings me to this nugget from the National Sleep Foundation:

“Exercise, but not close to bedtime. Exercising can help regulate your body and make you sleep better, but working out too close to bedtime can activate you and make it harder to settle into sleep.”


I have kind of a problem here.  I get plenty of exercise.  Exercise makes me more alert, more aware, and I like it.  Exercise also elevates our body temperature, but a lowered body temperature is associated with the onset of sleep.  So, in a nutshell, working out too close to bedtime… not good.  At least certainly not for me.  I’ve got years of exercise and not sleeping a whole lot to show for it.  So my next “small change” for better sleep is the following:

I will not work out after 9pm.

Most sane people are probably laughing at this, but I’m going to have a few problems here.  Most of the people I work with are one time zone behind me, which automatically shifts my day one hour later.  By the time I quit working, get home, have a snack, and start working out, I’m usually pushing 7pm.  Some of my workouts can take a few hours, so I’m bumping up against 9pm pretty quickly.  And then I still have to eat dinner and try to work myself down to being sleepy.  (I can’t eat dinner before a workout.  I tried it once.  It wasn’t pretty.)

Friday Night CyclingFriday night at 8:30.  Who says I don’t know how to party?!

So, as best as I can figure, this is going to cause me to have to shift some of my working out into the morning, and let’s just say I am NOT a morning person. Without getting too technical, when you wake up, you’re in a more or less fasted state, and some kinds of workouts just won’t go well when you’re fasted.  I’m sure I’m going to “bonk” more than once. But in my quest to improve my sleep habits, I am willing to give this a go.

But the good news is – at least I will be done working out LONG before my 4pm caffeine deadline. So I’m sure you can guess what my post-workout drink will be.

I’ll check back in one month and let you know how this is going.  Wish me luck!

James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.

    2 thoughts on “Healthier Sleep – Phase 2: Exercise

    1. Lynn

      You may be tired because of sleep apnea. Don’t sleep on your back, the airway gets blocked easier in this position. Dr. Oz did a segment on getting better sleep on today’s show, you should review it online. You may also be tired because you don’t allow yourself enough time TO sleep. It also takes time for your body to adjust to less caffeine, so hang in there. Decaf coffee or tea isn’t that bad, you get used to it. Just wanted to send you some encouragement!

      1. James - Post author

        Well, I think you hit it when you said I don’t give myself enough time TO sleep. That’s mostly what I’m trying to change. Thanks!


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