How resistance training can help you sleep better
- Researchers say resistance training, such as using free weights and stretching cables, may be better for getting quality sleep than aerobic exercise.
- Experts say resistance training leads to post-workout fatigue and muscle recovery that can promote better sleep.
- They add that aerobic exercise can also improve sleep. A combination of both types of exercises may be the best course for some people.
People with sleep issues may want to get off the treadmill and give the rest of the gym a try.
Resistance training – weight machines, free weights, cables, etc.
Plus, as a nice side benefit, better sleep is important for good cardiovascular health.
“There is growing recognition that getting enough sleep, especially quality sleep, is important for health, including cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, more than a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep regularly,” said Angelique BrellenthinPhD, study author and assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University.
“Aerobic activity is often recommended for improving sleep, but very little is known about the effects of resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise on sleep,” Brellenthin said in a statement.
“The United States Department of Health and Human Services”
The association of the heart
Lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain, diabetes and inflammation, all of which can worsen cardiovascular disease. Lack of sleep (or too much sleep) also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and premature death.
This study involved 386 adults meeting the criteria for overweight or obesity. The subjects were also inactive and had high blood pressure.
Participants were randomly assigned to a no-exercise group (for comparison) or to one of three exercise groups (aerobic only, resistance only, or aerobic and resistance combined) for 12 months.
The exercise groups did supervised 60-minute sessions, three times a week, with the combined exercise group doing 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and 30 minutes of resistance exercise.
The resistance group did sets on 12 machines, working all major muscle groups in each session.
More than a third (35%) of participants had poor quality sleep at the start of the study. Among the 42% of participants who did not sleep at least 7 hours, after 12 months, sleep increased by approximately:
- 40 minutes for resistance exercise group
- 23 minutes in the aerobic exercise group
- 17 minutes in the combined exercise group
- 15 minutes in the control group
Sleep efficiency increased in the resistance exercise and combined exercise groups, but not in the aerobic or no-exercise group.
DJ Mazzonia certified strength and conditioning specialist who is also the medical reviewer for Illuminate Labs Medication Management Service, told Healthline that resistance training builds lean muscle mass, which can increase overall metabolic rate.
The resulting muscle fatigue and the body’s recovery process lead to better sleep.
“Resistance-trained athletes burn more calories at rest, on average, than athletes who don’t engage in this type of training,” he said. “Resistance training generally involves more maximal or near maximal effort than cardio. This causes fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness after training, and may contribute to the psychological sensation of improved sleep. and recovery.
“For many athletes, it’s simply better to lay down after heavy resistance training than after cardio,” Mazzoni added. “Medical studies have looked at a wide range of different resistance training programs and found almost all of them to be effective in improving sleep quality.”
Alicia PatePhD, an associate professor of medical anatomy and physiology at Ponce Health Sciences University Saint Louis in Missouri, told Healthline that resistance training helps the body produce a chemical called adenosine, which promotes sleep.
“Adenosine binds to cell receptors, inhibiting neuronal activity and causing drowsiness,” Pate said. “A 2017 study finds that chronic resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, with the biggest benefit being sleep quality.”
“These sleep benefits of resistance training are attenuated when resistance training is combined with aerobic training or aerobic training alone,” she said.
“The mechanisms by which resistance exercise alters sleep remain largely unknown,” Pate added. “Resistance training could potentially improve sleep by improving symptoms of depression or anxiety, altering energy expenditure, increasing body temperature, or alleviating musculoskeletal pain, for example.”
Pate noted that doesn’t mean there’s no value in aerobic exercise when it comes to sleep.
“There is evidence to suggest that aerobic activity may also have positive effects on sleep quantity and quality,” she said. “Therefore, most doctors will suggest a regimen that includes both aerobic and resistance training for sleep (as well as many other health aspects).”
“But, if a patient is unable to sustain aerobic activity, resistance training alone is a valuable alternative,” she added.
Mazzoni said specific exercises aren’t necessarily important when it comes to training for better sleep.
“There is no specific type or duration of resistance training that is optimal for improving sleep,” he said. “The ideal workout will vary greatly depending on the individual. The most important thing, for healthy adults, is that resistance training is hard and physically taxing.