Cycling has been shown to offer numerous health benefits, not the least of which is enhanced sleep. So let’s look at the science behind cycling and sleep to find out if cycling is helpful for sleep.
In this article, you will learn why sleep is so important, whether cycling helps you sleep better, and the benefits of cycling for sleep so you can ride better and live a healthier life.
Cycling can help you sleep better because it has been shown to lower stress and increase the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood boosters.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 7, 2022, to include additional information about cycling and sleep. I am not a doctor. Please speak to your doctor for professional medical advice.
Before learning about cycling and sleep, let’s first understand why sleep is so important.
Why is sleep so important?
You won’t train well if you’re tired. Your legs may hurt the next day after a strenuous workout. This is due to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS is caused by minute tears in your muscle fibers, not lactic acid buildup. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is produced by your body to encourage muscle repair. However, it only produces HGH while you are sleeping!
For us older riders, not getting enough sleep impedes recuperation. Because our bodies create less HGH as we age, getting enough sleep becomes even more vital.
Additionally, sleep deprivation impairs concentration and the capacity to focus on detailed tasks such as reading maps or driving safely. This lack of sleep has also increased the risk of car accidents.
How can you tell if you’re not getting enough sleep?
If you need an alarm clock to wake up, you are likely not getting enough sleep. Additionally, feeling sluggish or exhausted even after getting enough sleep, waking up frequently during the night, and having symptoms of a sleep disorder are all signs of poor sleep quality (such as snoring or gasping for air).
Does cycling help you sleep better?
One study discovered that people who bike frequently have considerably better sleep quality than those who do not. The data suggest that cycling may help you sleep better. For example, endorphins, hormones that produce a sense of well-being and relaxation, are released during a hard cardiac workout. Furthermore, by keeping your body busy during the day, you will have fewer opportunities for stressors to take hold at night.
Additionally, researchers at Illinois University discovered that people who participated in their study performed 15% higher in cognitive testing when their cardio-respiratory fitness was improved by 5% by cycling. They think this is because exercise stimulates the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is in charge of memory.
The benefits of cycling for sleep
Just 30 minutes of cycling daily can significantly increase your ability to fall and stay asleep all night. What makes cycling so beneficial? Here are the top seven reasons why riding your bike* can help you sleep better.
1. Regular exercise leads to better sleep
According to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation poll, more than three out of every four people who frequently exercise reported getting enough sleep in the preceding two weeks. In contrast, only roughly half of non-exercisers indicated they slept well during the same period.
Furthermore, non-exercisers are roughly twice as likely to feel drowsy during the day and are at a higher risk of sleep apnea.
Cycling is a great way to get started with an exercise program. You use all your major muscle groups, from your shoulders to your back, stomach, and legs. It also lets you adjust the intensity of your workouts to match your fitness level, making it great for people who don’t work out much.
2. Cycling is gentler on your body than other common exercises
Running and other high-impact exercises are more prone to causing injuries, joint pain, and other ailments. This pain and soreness can keep you awake when you go to bed, making it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
According to a study led by public health professor David Nieman, long-distance runners reported up to 400% more muscle damage and over 250% more inflammation during recovery periods than cyclists who exercised the same amount—leading to reduced post-workout pain and discomfort for bikers and a lower likelihood of being kept awake by pain.
3. Cycling reduces back pain
Exercise alone does not induce pain and soreness. However, working at a desk can result in muscular imbalances that cause shoulder and back pain, poor posture, previous injuries, or chronic spinal disorders and deformities. This pain, like the muscle aches listed above, can easily keep you up at night.
Cycling helps relax muscles and enhances blood flow throughout the body without straining the back muscles. In addition, stationary riding is effortless on the spine because it doesn’t cause the jarring and spinal compression that can happen when pedaling over uneven terrain.
Cycling positions can also be more pleasant for people with chronic back pain. For example, most bikes’ forward-leaning stance seems more natural than running’s upright position for people with lumbar spinal stenosis. Reclining or recumbent bikes, on the other hand, provide a pleasant position for people suffering from lower back disorders such as lumbar degenerative disc disease.
If you have back pain, take a look at these products, which might help relieve your pain.
4. It’s a great stress reliever
Work-related stress can significantly negatively impact both the quality and length of sleep. Over time, this might result in a sleep deficiency, leading to serious mental and physical health problems. Exercise of as little as 10–30 minutes per day has been demonstrated in trials of individuals with anxiety disorders to work and medicine in many situations for symptom relief.
Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that lift and stabilize low moods in the short term. It also lowers stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline levels.
5. Cycling can help to alleviate insomnia
Anxiety and stress are common causes of insomnia. Thus, the stress alleviation advantages stated above also play a role. Some types of exercise, however, are better than others for people with chronic insomnia, and cycling falls into this group.
The National Sleep Foundation discovered that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, helped insomniacs fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. However, high-intensity workouts like jogging or weight lifting did not provide these results.
While experts are currently looking into the specifics, one theory has to do with body temperature. When you exercise, your body temperature rises, then falls afterward. That temperature dip can assist in notifying your body it’s time to sleep, especially if you go for a bike ride in the afternoon or evening.
6. It reduces sleep apnea risk (and symptoms for those with it)
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person occasionally stops breathing while sleeping. This disrupts your sleep, resulting in grogginess, headaches, irritability, or sadness during the day. Sleep apnea has been directly connected to body weight. Overweight or obese people are more likely to develop the illness because the accumulation of fatty tissues around the neck and throat can limit ventilation, especially while sleeping.
Regular cardiovascular activity, such as cycling, can assist you in achieving and maintaining healthy body weight. This lowers the likelihood of developing sleep apnea and helps alleviate symptoms in individuals who already have it. In addition, aging-related muscular tone loss can aggravate sleep apnea. As the throat muscles weaken, they are more prone to closing off airways while sleeping.
7. Regular exercise helps you regulate your circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s clock, producing signals that cause you to feel more awake at certain times and tired at others. This internal clock, which is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), releases hormones such as cortisol during “awake” hours and other hormones such as melatonin during “sleep” times.
According to a National Health Research Institute study, exercise can also influence how these brain chemicals are released and can play a key part in changing or correcting difficulties with your circadian rhythm.
Is cycling before bed bad?
Some people believe cycling before bed is not a good idea. However, according to a 2020 study on a small sample, aerobic exercise had little negative influence on sleep. Notably, their experiment’s workout concluded 90 minutes before bedtime. Another 2019 study found that moderate-intensity nighttime workouts increase sleep quality.
Cycling is one example of exercise that can help you sleep better. So, contrary to popular belief, riding a bike before bed is not harmful. Cycling at a low to moderate level and completing at least 1–1.5 hours before bed improves your sleep.
How to fall asleep and stay asleep faster
You can try a few things if you’re having trouble sleeping.
1. Cut down on stimulants
Before cycling, avoid coffee and caffeine-containing beverages. Duh.
2. Stay away from social media
The blue light from the phone screen reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. So, 30 minutes before going to bed, turn off your phone. In addition, turn off all of the lights in your bedroom. This makes the room completely dark, telling your brain that it’s time for bed and making it easier for you to fall asleep.
Lowering your core temperature to a regular level will allow you to fall asleep sooner after your nightly workout. You can accomplish this by taking a cool shower after riding. The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Consume a recovery snack
If you get hungry after riding, have a light, healthy snack. You won’t be able to sleep if your stomach is empty. Milk, oatmeal, or corn flakes are all fine options.
5. Take a nap during the day
Napping is one of the most effective strategies to alleviate stress and enhance productivity. A nap can help you overcome daily stressors, recharge your batteries, and increase concentration. Also, napping is important to falling asleep quickly and getting a good night’s sleep.
If you want even more tips, watch this video called “How Much Does Sleep Effect your Cycling Performance? The Science” from the Dylan Johnson YouTube Channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about cycling and sleep.
How many hours should cyclists sleep?
Most cyclists require 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Some people can live on less, while others require more. The point is you need to be in bed for 8-to-9 hours.
Is it ok to bike without sleep?
No. Sleep-deprived people have worse glycogen storage, which cyclists will require if they go on a “long” ride of 90 minutes or longer. Sleep may interfere, even if you prefer a shorter, more intense ride. And cycling while sleepy is dangerous. so don’t do it. Sleep deprivation can hurt your health and motor skills.
Why is it hard to sleep after a long bike ride?
When your body temperature remains elevated, you may have difficulty sleeping. So always take a cool shower after cycling to ensure you fall asleep fast.
How much do pro cyclists sleep?
Professional cyclists may sleep 10 to 12 hours per day for each day of racing.
Sleep is essential for general wellness and long-term health. If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, a good alternative is to add cycling to your daily routine. Sleep deprivation can harm your general health, so following these simple suggestions will lead you to a healthier cycle and better sleep!
This article covered why sleep is so important. Does cycling help you sleep better? And the benefits of cycling for sleep. Here are some key takeaways:
- You won’t train as well if you’re tired.
- DOMS is caused by minute tears in your muscle fibers, not lactic acid buildup.
- Some data suggests that cycling may help you sleep better.
- By keeping your body busy during the day, you will have fewer opportunities for stressors to take hold at night.
- People who bike frequently have considerably better sleep quality than those who do not cycle.
- Just 30 minutes of cycling daily can significantly increase your ability to fall and stay asleep all night.
- A good night’s sleep makes you more productive during the day.
So, how fast can you fall asleep? Did we cover everything you wanted to know? Let us know in the comments section below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on fixed gear bikes. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.