Sleep Better with Resistance Training

If one has sleep issues, one may want to get off the treadmill and give the rest of the gym a chance.

Resistance training — weight machines, free weights, cables, etc. — may be better at generating quality sleep than aerobic exercise. Better sleep is important for good cardiovascular health.

It is increasingly recognized that getting enough sleep, particularly high quality sleep, is important for health, including cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, more don’t get enough quality sleep on a regular basis. Aerobic activity is often recommended to improve sleep, yet very little is known about the effects of resistance exercise versus aerobic exercise on sleep.

Getting poor quality sleep increases the chances of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits building up in arteries). Lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and inflammation, all of which can worsen cardiovascular disease. Not enough sleep (or sleeping too much) also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and early death.

The benefits of resistance training 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 do not engage in this type of training. Resistance training typically involves more instances of maximum or near-maximum effort compared to cardio. This causes fatigue and delayed-onset muscle soreness post-workout, and may contribute to the psychological feeling of improved sleep and recovery. It simply feels better to get in bed after a hard resistance training workout than after cardio for many athletes. Medical studies have examined a wide range of different resistance workout programs and found nearly all of them to be effective for improving sleep quality.

Resistance training helps the body produce a chemical called adenosine, which promotes sleep.

Adenosine binds to cellular receptors, inhibiting neural activity and causing drowsiness. Chronic resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit being sleep quality. These benefits on sleep of resistance training are attenuated when resistance training is combined with aerobic training or with aerobic training alone.

Aerobic exercise can help, too This does not mean there is no value in aerobic exercise when it comes to sleep. There is evidence that suggests aerobic activity can also have positive effects on sleep quantity and quality. Specific exercises are not necessarily important when it comes to training for better sleep.

There is no specific type or duration of resistance training optimal for improving sleep. The ideal workout will vary significantly based on the individual. The most important thing, for healthy adults, is that the resistance workout is challenging and physically taxing.