Running Before Bed: 9 Benefits + Safety Tips For Nighttime Running

Running at night can be fun and a nice way to end the day - here's how to do it well.

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As a UESCA-certified running coach, I work with runners of all levels and lifestyles, and while I personally am a fan of morning runs, many of the athletes I train are night owls who prefer running at night before bed.

Evening runs can be a great way to blow off stress from the day, but some people find that vigorous exercise too close to bedtime can cause sleep disturbances.

In this guide to running at night, we will discuss the benefits of running in the evening before bed, safety tips for nighttime running, and how to run at night without impacting your ability to get deep sleep

People running at sunset.

What Are The Benefits Of Running Before Bed?

Here are some of the potential benefits of running at night before bed:

#1: Encourages Healthy Eating

One of the benefits of running in the evening or later part of the day is that it tends to encourage healthy choices in terms of diet and wellness habits.

When you know that you still have to do your workout, you won’t want to overeat or consume fatty foods, heavy foods, or alcohol throughout the day or at dinner to avoid digestive issues or bloating, when you are trying to do your nighttime run.

When people run first thing in the morning, they may feel free to eat whatever they please or have larger portion sizes throughout the day as a way to reward themselves.

That said, I want to present the disclaimer that exercise should never be about “earning calories“ or “deserving foods.“ Even if you don’t get any regular exercise during the day, your body deserves nutritious food and calories.

Setting up a diet mindset where there are “good foods“ and “bad foods“ and that calories need to be earned through running or other workouts can lead to disordered eating and distorted body image.

You should work with a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist, or mental healthcare professional if you are concerned about your relationship with food and eating.

People running at sunset.

#2: Easier to Fuel

As long as you’re following a balanced diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, your body should have plenty of nutrition to fuel your evening runs.

This can improve your energy levels and potentially allow you to get through long runs or hard workouts feeling stronger and faster than running in the early morning.

You may also not need to consume sports drinks, energy gels, or other carbs right before your run because you would’ve had balanced meals throughout the day.

Many of the sports performance foods are highly processed, but because they digest quickly, they are often ideal for distance runners who need to do a morning workout without having breakfast.

Running at night after a day of eating real food to replenish glycogen stores may prevent the need to rely on processed sports drinks and simple carbs.

#3: May Decrease Blood Pressure

Some studies have found that regular exercise before bed may help reduce blood pressure in men more than morning workouts due to the circadian rhythm patterns that govern blood pressure response.1Brito, L. C., Rezende, R. A., Mendes, C., Silva-Junior, N. D., Tinucci, T., Cipolla-Neto, J., & de Moraes Forjaz, C. L. (2017). Separate aftereffects of morning and evening exercise on ambulatory blood pressure in prehypertensive men. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness58(1-2). https://doi.org/10.23736/s0022-4707.17.06964-x

However, this should not be taken as medical advice.

A person running at sunset.

#4: More Time

Depending on your daily schedule, one of the benefits of running at night is that you may have more time for your workout without needing to rush off to work.

An evening run can be done at the end of the day once you have completed all of your obligations with work or family responsibilities. 

This may mean you have ample time to do a good warm-up, dynamic stretching, and a cool down, whereas morning runners often need to cut corners with the warm-up and cool down to get on to the workday.

#5: Establishes Consistency 

Any time you establish a running routine, if you keep your training time relatively consistent with your daily schedule, you are more likely to get in your workouts on your training plan.

Running at random times during the day can make it more chaotic and hard to have a structured training schedule or even remember to make time for physical activity.

If you know that you will run after work or before bed every day, you don’t have to figure out your workout time each day.

A runner resting.

#6: Ends the Day On a High Note

As a morning runner myself, one thing I love about morning running is that it starts my day. I love running, and I always feel great after my workout.

That said, the same can be said for evening running.

You have all day to look forward to running outside and getting a nice burst of endorphins, endocannabinoids, stress relief, and even social time if you are part of a running group.

This can help pull you through the workday or other challenging parts of your day.

#7: Social Time of Day

Many running groups meet up in the evening hours after work, allowing you to train with others.

#8: Improves Performance

One study found that time to exhaustion while performing endurance exercise was 20% greater for evening workouts compared to early morning workouts, meaning your body and mind might be able to handle longer workouts if you go running at night.2Hill, D. W. (2014). Morning–evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism39(2), 248–254. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0140

‌Moreover, researchers noted that certain performance markers were also better during evening exercise compared with morning workouts.

For example, exercise in the evening was associated with a 4% higher maximal oxygen uptake (VO2) and a 7% higher anaerobic capacity. 

Plus, muscles took up oxygen faster during evening exercise, enabling the anaerobic reserves to be used more sparingly. 

All this is to say that your body tends to perform better in evening workouts, allowing you to exercise longer and harder.

This, in turn, can lead to greater improvements in your fitness.

A runner at night, resting.

#9: Better Flexibility

Even with a good warm up, many runners feel stiff for the first several miles with early morning running. This can make it hard to do interval training and may even increase the risk of injury.

According to research, the muscles and joints are up to 20% more flexible in the evening and are consequently less prone to injury than they are during morning workouts. This is because core body temperature is higher, and circulation may be better.3Rupali, D., & Aruna, V. (2020). The Pros And Cons Of Morning And Evening Exercise A Review Article. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences19(12), 1-07.

Does running before bedtime affect sleep quality?

The effect of running before bed seems to be mixed and, ultimately, may depend upon your body and whether it disrupts your sleep or if you’re sensitive to intense exercise before bed.

Some people find that they sleep better if they get moderate-intensity aerobic exercise before bed, and can even do high-intensity exercise with little to no sleep disruption.4Saidi, O., Davenne, D., Lehorgne, C., & Duché, P. (2020). Effects of timing of moderate exercise in the evening on sleep and subsequent dietary intake in lean, young, healthy adults: randomized crossover study. European Journal of Applied Physiology120(7), 1551–1562. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04386-6

However, other research shows that vigorous exercise too close to bedtime can disrupt sleep, making it hard to fall asleep.5Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0

A large meta-analysis found that exercise before bed does not disrupt sleep and even increases slow-wave deep sleep, as long as vigorous exercise ends at least one hour before bedtime.6Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0

A person running at night.

‌You may need to experiment to see whether running before bedtime disrupts your sleep patterns. 

Some people may need to run at a different time of day altogether, or at least a little bit earlier in the evening, so that there is time to wind down.

Intense exercise such as a speed workout or intense nighttime run may disrupt your circadian rhythm and natural melatonin production.

You can also try taking a warm bath after you cool down from your evening run.

Reading before bed can also calm your body.

If you believe you may have a sleep disorder or are having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider. 

People running at night.

If you are going to run in the dark before bed, there are a few safety tips to follow:

  • Wear reflective clothing, including a reflective vest as well as a bright headlamp to improve visibility.
  • Stay in well-lit areas or run with a running group.
  • Avoid secluded roads and trail running where there might be wildlife or dangerous individuals.

Overall, if you find that you are struggling to get quality sleep after evening workouts, you may find that saving high-intensity exercise (HIIT, interval training, tempo runs) for a different time of day and just doing easy or moderate-intensity runs helps prevent sleep disruptions.

Are you still unsure if nighttime running is right for you? Check out our next guide to the pros and cons of running at different times of day:

References

  • 1
    Brito, L. C., Rezende, R. A., Mendes, C., Silva-Junior, N. D., Tinucci, T., Cipolla-Neto, J., & de Moraes Forjaz, C. L. (2017). Separate aftereffects of morning and evening exercise on ambulatory blood pressure in prehypertensive men. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness58(1-2). https://doi.org/10.23736/s0022-4707.17.06964-x
  • 2
    Hill, D. W. (2014). Morning–evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism39(2), 248–254. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0140
  • 3
    Rupali, D., & Aruna, V. (2020). The Pros And Cons Of Morning And Evening Exercise A Review Article. IOSR Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences19(12), 1-07.
  • 4
    Saidi, O., Davenne, D., Lehorgne, C., & Duché, P. (2020). Effects of timing of moderate exercise in the evening on sleep and subsequent dietary intake in lean, young, healthy adults: randomized crossover study. European Journal of Applied Physiology120(7), 1551–1562. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04386-6
  • 5
    Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0
  • 6
    Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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