Having sleep problems? Strength training can help, sports scientists at Appalachian State University in the US discovered. According to their study, doing strength training early in the morning helps you fall asleep earlier at night, and doing strength training later in the day reduces the number of times you wake up during the night.
The researchers did experiments with 12 male and 12 female students, aged between 18 and 25. The researchers studied the subjects’ sleep on four different occasions.
C = no strength training;
7A = strength training at 7 o’clock in the morning;
1P = strength training at 1 o’clock in the afternoon;
7P = strength training at 7 o’clock in the evening.
The training session consisted each time of standard exercises on machines: leg press, leg extension, hamstring curl, calf raise, crunch, triceps extension, biceps curl, lat pull-down and chest press. For each exercise the students did 3 sets of 10 reps.
The students slept better on days that they did strength training. When they trained early in the morning they fell asleep more quickly that evening. When they trained later in the day they woke up less frequently during the night. Strength training later in the day also reduced the number of minutes the students lay awake at night.
The researchers also monitored the students’ blood pressure while they were sleeping. Strength training had no effect on this, however.
“Practitioners should urge clients who struggle to fall asleep to work out earlier in the morning, whereas those who struggle to stay asleep may benefit more from evening strength training sessions”, the researchers wrote. “Stressing the sleep-enhancing advantages of resistance exercise is also critical.”
“Those who do not regularly engage in aerobic exercise because of health or other limitations could improve their ability to maintain sleep and concomitantly limit the risk of developing adverse health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, which have all been associated with poor or insufficient sleep, by incorporating resistance exercise into their weekly routines; this thus supports the role of exercise as an effective prophylactic health measure.”
Effects of resistance exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure.
Short sleep duration and poor quality of sleep have been associated with health risks including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Prior research has suggested that regular aerobic exercise improves the quality of sleep; however, less is known regarding resistance exercise (RE) and how RE may affect sleep architecture. The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute effects of timing of RE on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure. College-aged subjects engaged in 5 laboratory visits. Visits 1 (C) and 2 provided a non-RE control day and established the 10-repetition maximum on each of 9 RE machines, respectively. During visits 3-5, the subjects reported at 0700 hours (7A), 1300 hours (1P), and 1900 hours (7P) in a randomized order to perform 30 minutes of RE. Ambulatory blood pressure and sleep-monitoring devices were worn during sleep after C, 7A, 1P, and 7P. Time to fall asleep was significantly different between RE conditions 7A and 1P and between 7A and 7P. All exercise conditions exhibited significantly fewer times woken than the non-RE control day, with 7P resulting in significantly less time awake after initially falling asleep as compared with C. Although timing of RE does not seem to statistically impact sleep stages or nocturnal blood pressure, these data indicate that engaging in RE at any time of the day may improve quality of sleep as compared with no RE. Resistance exercise may offer additional benefits regarding the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep to populations with osteoporosis, sarcopenia, anxiety, or depression.
PMID: 25426516 DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000750 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]