HIIT And Sleep – Wake Up Feeling Refreshed

Tired of tossing and turning, unable to sleep? Does counting sheep not help you get your zzzzz’s? Do supplements like melatonin leave you feeling groggy and hungover?

If so, doing a few HIIT workouts a week might be a better solution. That’s right, a thigh burning, chest pounding HIIT workout that makes you hyperventilate can also help you sleep better. 

How do I know this? While doing research on another topic I came across an article in the International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health that analyzed every HIIT study published which also tracked people’s sleep patterns. 

Since sleep is so important to all of us I knew I had to share what I learned with you. 

In addition to sharing what the research says about HIIT and sleep, I’ve also listed a few tips and 2 really awesome workouts for you to try. 

So, What’s The Deal About HIIT And Sleep?

In a nutshell, doing as few as 2-3 HIIT workouts a week can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. This means you’ll spend more time in bed sleeping than tossing and turning. It also means you’ll wake up feeling awesome. While this is also true for moderate intensity exercise, what makes this information cool is that you can get the same or better benefits with a 15 minute workout instead of a 30-60 minute walk. 

“The more active you are, the more your body pushes you to sleep at night. Activity increases your sleep drive.”

Sleep Psychologist Michelle Drerup, PsD 

Sleep Better With HIIT Workouts

Your Workouts Need To Be Long Enough

Researchers find that in order to improve sleep quality, a HIIT workout needs to last at least 16 minutes. Less than that and you may not get as much benefit. This is probably due to the fact that our body’s drive to sleep is related to our activity level. 

If you’re just getting started and can’t do 16 minutes of HIIT you have a few options. One is that you can break it up into 2-3 workouts of 5-8 minutes each with several minutes or even hours between sessions. 

You can also do as much HIIT as you can and then do something that’s lower intensity like walking or riding a bike for 30 minutes. As you become fitter, add 1-2 minutes to your HIIT workouts each week. 

More HIIT May Not Be Better

If you’re doing 4 or more high intensity interval training sessions a week and don’t find that you’re sleeping better, try cutting back to 2-3 and see if it makes a difference. Research shows that there’s some association with less than 3 HIIT workouts a week being better for sleep. 

This seems counterintuitive since the more active we are leads to an increased desire to sleep. The authors of the article didn’t give a reason why. As always, you’ll need to experiment a little and see what’s best for you. 

The Time Of Day You Do HIIT Doesn’t Matter

This again is one of those things that may vary a bit from person to person. But, there’s research that shows the time of day that you do intense exercise doesn’t seem to affect your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Even if you work out a few hours before bed. 

This is a new thing for me. I think I’ve believed for years that if I lift weights or do any other intense workout before bed I’d lie awake all night staring at the ceiling.

Even before I read the research I learned that for me this isn’t the case at all. I’ve started doing a few jiu jitsu workouts from 8:30 – 10 PM and am able to get to sleep by 11:00 PM no problem. 

Like all these tips you need to see for yourself what does and doesn’t work. But, based on my experience and the latest research you’re not likely to have a problem. 

If You’re Older, HIIT May Not Be As Helpful

In some studies, results show that if you’re a guy or girl who’s 60+ doing medium intensity exercise – jogging, cycling, walking at a steady, but not intense pace – may be better for helping your sleep.

That doesn’t mean HIIT can’t help you sleep or in lots of other ways and is still worth doing. You’re not going to sleep worse because you’re doing high intensity interval workouts and you’ll still get benefits like your heart health, fat loss, strength, and endurance.

Every HIIT Workout Should Include These Things

If you’re new to doing HIIT workouts you should know what makes them unique and so very effective. Here’s a brief list of what a HIIT workout must have and be like to give you the most benefit.

  • The workout must get your heart rate up to at least 80% of its max (220 – your age).
  • You should be taking brief (5-60 seconds) rests between sets of exercising as hard as you can for the same amount of time or longer. 
  • The workouts can be done using a bike, rower, running, and with weights such as kettlebells. 
  • Your workouts have to last more than 15 minutes to be the most effective. But if all you can do is 5 minutes, that’ll help you too. More than moderate cardio – walking or jogging – for the same amount of time. 
  • Any HIIT workout needs to be scalable to match your current level of fitness. If it’s not, find another. 

2 HIIT Workouts For Your To Try

Here’s a workout that meets all of the criteria listed above. Give it a try and see for yourself how effective this way of training is when done right. While I say to use kettlebells it can also be done with dumbbells, sandbags, and whatever heavy stuff you have laying around. 

Workout 1 – Kettlebell Swings

  • Kettlebell Swings – 30 seconds
  • Rest – 60 seconds 
  • Repeat for 5-20 minutes

How To Scale This Workout

  • Use a weight you can swing with moderate difficulty for 15 reps
  • If the rest period is too short and you aren’t recovered enough to do your swings, add 15-30 seconds of rest to it until you are. 
  • You can either increase the weight of your kettlebell or rest less between intervals if you’re not able to get your heart to 80% of its max (220 – your age) or higher. 

Workout 2 – Squat, Push Ups, and Rows 

  • Do the exercises one after another with no rest between them. Rest after you’ve done bent over rows with each arm then start again at goblet squats for another round. 
  • Goblet squats – 10 reps
  • Push Ups – 10 reps
  • 1 Arm Bent Over Row – 10 reps/arm
  • Rest 60 seconds
  • Repeat for 5-20 minutes

How To Scale This Workout

  • Use a weight you can squat with moderate difficulty for 15 reps.
  • If the rest period is too short and you aren’t recovered enough to do the next set of exercises, give yourself as much time as you need to catch your breath. 
  • Increase the weight of your kettlebell or rest less between intervals if you’re not able to get your heart to 80% of its max (220 – your age) or higher. 
Bulldog sleeping on chair

It’s True, HIIT Can Help You Sleep Better

When done in a way that’s best for you, high intensity interval training workouts can help you sleep better. In far less time than it takes to get the same benefit from less strenuous workouts like walking or riding a bike at a medium pace. 


Frimpong E, Mograss M, Zvionow T, Dang-Vu TT. The effects of evening high-intensity exercise on sleep in healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Dec; 60:101535.

Min L, Wang D, You Y, Fu Y, Ma X. Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training on Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Oct 19;18(20):10973.

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