Could Lifting Weights Be The Secret To A Good Night's Sleep?

Do you toss and turn until the wee hours of the night? Do you wake up just hours after falling asleep, and then wait to get back to rest again? Have you tried different supplements to help you sleep to no avail? Don't give up hope just yet — new research points to an innovative and relatively easy way to increase the quality and duration of your sleep: lifting weights.

A study presented for the first time this week at the annual American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference looked at the impact of physical activity on sleep. "It's well established in the science and evidence base that aerobic exercise is good for sleep, (but) in our study, we found that resistance exercise appeared to go above and beyond aerobics or even a combined aerobic and resistance routine on several different sleep outcomes," study author Angelique Brellenthin told CNN.

Resistance training vs. aerobic excercise for sleep quality

In the study, researchers followed different groups of overweight people with higher than normal blood pressure as they implemented either aerobic, resistance, or a combination of both exercise regimes. They were compared to a group that did not exercise at all. The researchers found that while the combination group did experience some improved sleep efficiency, the resistance exercise alone did much better, adding an average of 40 minutes of sleep. It also reduced the number of times they woke up during the night (via CNN).

"I think the take-home message should be that if you have sleep concerns, you might want to make a conscious effort to include the resistance training in your week," Brellenthin told CNN. The researcher added that while aerobic exercise has positive health benefits, weight lifting is definitely superior. "You might get more comprehensive, longer-term health benefits and better sleep by doing both types of exercise," Brellenthin adds.

How weight lifting causes your body to rest deeper

According to Brellenthin, nobody is quite sure why weight lifting induces better sleep than aerobic exercise, although there are several theories linked to the production of more testosterone (via CNN). According to a 2016 study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, low testosterone levels may affect overall sleep quality in many different ways. The author of the study recommended testosterone replacement therapy as a novel treatment for some sleep disorders. Resistance exercise can raise your testosterone levels better than other forms of exercise (via WebMD), meaning that weight lifting may be a natural way to increase the production of your body's own sleep-inducing chemicals.

"Another theory might be that when you do weight training, those microscopic tears in tissue that forces the muscle to adapt are sending a stronger signal to the brain to put the person in a deeper state of restoration at night," Brellenthin told CNN, explaining how deeper sleep is a part of the body's natural repair system. A 2019 study found that sleep deprivation reduced the recovery of muscle injuries induced by high-intensity exercise in mice. This suggests that the body needs deeper sleep to repair damaged tissues. 

For those looking for a better night's sleep, adding weight lifting or another form of resistance training to their regime might just be the magic bullet.