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Sleep Hacks Part 2: Strategizing Your Workouts For Better Sleep!

In my previous post I discuss the ways you can manipulate your environment for better sleep. In this post I will talk about ways you can structure your workout/physical activity throughout the day to maximize sleep.

“The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person.”

It’s commonly understood that most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle to properly function and recover from the stress of everyday life. There are of course exceptions to this rule. A small percentage of the population is born with a special genetic mutation that enables them to sleep and function perfectly with less than 5 hours of sleep. However, this genetic variant is rare, and if you find yourself groggy on less than 6 hours of sleep, you are probably not blessed with this gene. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who require more hours of sleep (9-12 hours) especially if they are active. The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person.

Image result for sleep and exercise

You need to figure out how much sleep you typically need:

  •      When do you feel your best?

  •      When left to your own devices, when do you wake up?

  •      How many hours do you sleep when you don’t have to wake up to an alarm?

  •      What does your physical and cognitive performance look like on 6, 7, 8 or 9 hours of sleep?

Once you have an understanding of how much sleep your body likes, then you can manipulate your day to help you get the sleep you need.


“Studies have found that no matter when you exercise, if you exercise at least 30 minutes per day, your ability to fall asleep will improve.”

Studies have found that no matter when you exercise, if you exercise at least 30 minutes per day, your ability to fall asleep will improve. However, there are ways to optimize the bang-for-your-buck effect of exercise on sleep. Studies have found that exercising within 3 hours of bedtime might disrupt sleep, likely because of the body’s inability to lower it’s heart rate and body temperature. There is still a silver lining to late night exercise, as evidence suggests that late night exercisers are more alert the next morning and sleep well the next night. The bottom line: 30 minutes of exercise a day is better than not exercising in relation to sleep.


There are opportunities throughout the day for you to take advantage of your body’s natural circadian rhythm and hormone production to promote better sleep.

In the morning, consider doing a light workout at around 65% effort. This light activity helps you better mobilize and deal with inflammation as well as avoids increasing naturally high cortisol (stress) levels in the morning. As a result, during your evening workout you would need less of a warm up and get a more productive workout. Even if you skip the morning movement, you can choose a type of workout in the evening that will help with sleep.

The chart below gives specific suggestions as to the types of workouts that have been shown to be most beneficial to sleep, depending on time of day.

Time of Day


Suggested Type of Workout


65% effort, 20-60 min

Burn 45, Morning walk + stretching

Afternoon (2:00-6:00)

50-80% effort, 60-150 minutes

Burn 45, CF Lite, CF all levels

Evening (3-4 hours before bed)

85-90% effort, ~30 min

CF lite, CF All Levels

“even if you do an 85%+ effort workout in the morning, or 65% effort in the evening, as long as you accrue 30 minutes of exercise, you should see an increase in sleep quality.”

Remember these are only suggestions for the most optimal conditions. Even if you do an 85%+ effort workout in the morning, or 65% effort in the evening, if your workout lasts at least 30 minutes, you should see an increase in sleep quality. If you workout closer to bed time, you can employ other strategies such as relaxing breath work and lukewarm or cold showers–and still get the benefits of exercise.

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If you know you are sleep deprived, you can still use exercise to 1) alleviate sleepiness and 2) ensure that you will have good sleep later on. Studies suggest that when sleep deprived you can reduce sleepiness by undergoing a long-duration, aerobic exercise. A Burn 45 class would be perfect, since you are kept in your aerobic MAF heart rate. Conversely, if you don’t have time to go “long and slow” you can attempt to do short bouts of exercise (~10) minutes, every 2 hours. This could look like a 10 min AMRAP of burpees, air squats, and pushups.

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If you want to improve your sleep, you need to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be a mixture of easy morning aerobic work, such as stretching or walking, followed by an evening WOD. To optimize your sleep, consider doing both a lighter morning workout, and a more intense evening workout 3-4 hours before bed. Top it all off with a lukewarm/cold shower and some meditation/breathwork and presto! Sleep!

Be on the lookout for Sleep Part 3, where I go into some tips for food, drink, and supplementation protocols to help you sleep better. If you have any questions feel free to email me at jasmine@crossfitslipstream.com. Until then, keep sleeping!

Jasmine Gerritsen