By Elaina Hundley
2021 is starting off with a bang, but you’re certainly not alone if you still are not achieving quality sleep despite the dawning of the New Year. Even if life might very well feel out of control, we can all take some comfort in the fact that we can control the steps we take to take care of ourselves. According to a new study from Preventative Medical Reports, two common resolutions—getting better sleep and exercising more—could work together to help you be wholly healthier in 2021. The report explains that strength training can contribute to better quality sleep.
It is already known that light to heavy aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, swimming and running can all contribute to better quality sleep. Researchers now have reason to believe that muscle building exercise like weight training, push-ups and really any movement that builds up muscles may also help people sleep better.
In particular, the study in question correlates weekly frequency of muscle-strengthening exercise with sleep quality among a sample of 23,000 German adults. Runner’s World recaps the survey explaining that, “Any muscle-strengthening done during a typical week was associated with a reduced prevalence of sleep rated as “poor” or “very poor.” These associations remained after adjusting for other factors like high body mass index, chronic disease, age, and smoking.”
What is most heartening about the survey is that you absolutely do not need to be a gym rat to achieve better sleep quality. The survey showed that more exercise was not necessarily better—individuals who only exercised once per week as compared to five times per week still saw improvements in their sleep quality.
While a correlation between exercise and better sleep quality has been studied before, this study is unique in that it focused on muscle building as opposed to aerobic exercise. Through this self-reported data, as well as other studies on exercise and sleep, it is very clear that both muscle building and aerobic exercise both contribute to better quality sleep. That said, a study on strength training and sleep utilizing a direct observational methodology rather than self reporting could help provide further and more specific evidence.
Timing Of Exercise
While the impact of when one does muscle building exercise has not been studied in the same way as aerobic exercise has, for the time being similar advice likely can apply. As you integrate exercise into your 2021 daily routine, try to avoid exercising right before bed.
“We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality,” says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. , medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. “But there’s still some debate as to what time of day you should exercise. I encourage people to listen to their bodies to see how well they sleep in response to when they work out.”
There are two key reasons, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, as to why exercising right before bed might actually wind you up instead of helping you wind down for the evening. The first is endorphins. No matter what kind of exercise you do, it can cause you to release endorphins (yay). While endorphins are good (they make you happy!), they can also give you the kind of energy that will keep you awake at night.
The second reason is that exercise raises your core body temperature which signals to your brain that it’s time to be awake and moving. But after about 30-90 minutes, your core temperature will decline, which can help you go to sleep. So if you are an evening exerciser that’s ok—just be sure to time it for about one to two hours before you want to start winding down for the night.
The Bottom Line
Physical movement of nearly any kind—even a rigorous cleaning of your home—can improve sleep quality. And you should see the benefits of exercising on your sleep right away, you don’t have to wait weeks or months. So if exercising more is one of your resolutions we say, “jump on it.” It could make you feel a little happier and sleep a little better starting today.