ask the doctors Dr. Elizabeth Ko and Dr. Eve Glazier

Dear Doctors, Sometimes I have trouble sleeping. I’ve tried running, which helps with stress, but not sleep. My husband says he just found out on the news that weightlifting is supposed to be good for sleeping. Do you know if it’s true?

Dear Reader, We suspect your husband is referring to the preliminary results of a new study, presented earlier this year at an American Heart Association conference, which found that resistance training, such as lifting weights , may have a beneficial effect on sleep. The study results confirm previous research, which also found that resistance training may provide benefits for sleep. Before going into details, we would like to point out that this study has not yet completed peer review. It is the process by which other experts in the same field evaluate a person’s research or scientific work.

The new study looked at 386 sedentary adults who were also overweight and had high blood pressure. More than a third said they struggled to get enough, good quality sleep. The participants were divided into four groups. One group, which served as a control, did not do any exercise. The remaining groups performed three 60-minute exercise sessions per week. One group received only resistance training. This consisted of working the major muscle groups on 12 different weight and resistance machines. One group did only aerobic exercise, choosing from stationary bikes, treadmills or elliptical machines. And the third group did a combination of both – 30 minutes of resistance training and 30 minutes of aerobic activity.

After one year, participants were assessed on factors such as sleep duration, sleep quality, how long it took to fall asleep, and how often their sleep was interrupted. Every group, including the control group, saw improvements in sleep duration. However, the resistance training group, with an increase of 40 minutes of sleep per night, had the best results. The aerobics-only group saw an average increase in sleep of 23 minutes per night, while the mixed exercise group got an additional 17 minutes per night. Study participants in the control group, who did not exercise, reported a gain of 15 minutes of sleep per night. When it comes to sleep efficiency, which is the percentage of time someone spends sleeping in bed, only the resistance exercise and combination exercise groups saw improvements. The sleep efficiency of the aerobic exercise or control groups remained the same.

Although interesting, it is important to remember that these results are preliminary. We would hate for them to force anyone to give up aerobic activities, which improve lung function, cardiovascular health, mood and endurance. For those who might be inspired to add resistance training to their exercise routine, the weight machines used in the study aren’t the only option. Resistance exercises can also be done with free weights and elastic resistance bands. You can also harness your own body weight by doing push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups. Not only do resistance exercises build strength, but they also improve bone health. And if your sleep improves, you can consider it a bonus.

Evelyn C. Tobin