The Late-Night Amateur Athlete’s Guide to Sleep

Does your sports league hold games well after sunset? Here’s how to make sure you still get your rest.

Whether you’re a former college athlete who loves playing sports or someone who cares about staying fit and healthy, joining an amateur league is a great way to exercise and have fun. But since many clubs schedule games around traditional workdays, you might find yourself lacing up your sneakers as late as 10 PM. With a full daytime schedule, it’s natural to worry this could negatively impact the quality of your sleep, and therefore your energy the following morning. Follow these strategies to ensure you wake up rested and ready to go, no matter how hard you played the night before.

Don’t Sweat It
While the ideal time to exercise for optimal sleep is the morning or afternoon, don’t be too nervous if you find yourself with a game that starts at night. Remember that physical activity—no matter what time of day it happens—is more beneficial to sleep in the long-term than no activity at all.

Take Time to Unwind
Despite what you may have read, post-dinner workouts don’t affect everyone the same way. Some people feel tired from the physical activity and fall asleep quickly, while others feel wired from the adrenalin of a competitive game. If you fall into the latter group, give yourself time to unwind once you return home: Put on comfy clothes, read a book, meditate or listen to some soft music. And rest assured, once you drift off there is no difference in actual sleep quality between nights when you have a game versus those you don’t.

Shower Before Bed
If you are having a hard time relaxing after an intense round of exercise, take a shower. Practically speaking, you’ll feel better when you’re cleaner but just as important, the warm water can relax your muscles, encouraging your body to fall asleep more quickly.

Snack Smarter
Exercise can build up an appetite. If you’re feeling hungry after your game, choose your food wisely. Look for a light snack that contains some whole grains, along with protein and a little fat, such as wheat crackers with peanut butter. This combo will help you feel satisfied longer, so you don’t wake up at 2 AM with the munchies.

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