Did you know that intensive bouts of exercise can get in the way of a restful sleep?

A new study from a Loughborough University team in England, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, discovered that intense exercise can result in sleep disturbance, as shown by the effects of two episodes of nine-day intense training on 13 well-trained cyclists.

Researcher S.C. Killer along with her colleagues found that as few as nine days filled with intense physical training led to “significant and progressive decline in sleep quality,” and observed worsening moods and ability for further exercise in the athletes during the study run.

"Sleep efficiency was significantly reduced during the intensified training period," reported the researchers , noting that the number of times the athletes woke in the night also dramatically increased.

The study participants had changes in mood as well, such as greater stress symptoms, tension, fatigue, anger, confusion, and depression.
While data reflected an increased time spent in bed during periods of intense training, the extra time of the cyclists in bed did not lead to any more actual shuteye.

The team monitored the moods, sleep patterns, and performance of the athletes during and after exercising. Diets and their potential counter-effects on sleep deprivation were also considered, with subjects randomly given moderate or high carbohydrate levels throughout the research.

A high-carb regime was found to reduce some impacts of intense training, while the moderate-carb one resulted in a higher sleep rate but potentially demonstrated higher fatigue levels and greater recovery requirement.

The authors noted that a successful training cycle continues to an acute fatigue state, followed by rest. Such training induces positive adaptations as well as better performance.

“However, if overloaded training is not followed by sufficient rest, overreaching may occur," the team warned.

The researchers also called for all sports coaches to promote and allow sufficient rest time in their athletes’ training, including plenty of naps.

Scientists are yet to agree on the optimum amount of sleep every night for both athletes and non-athletes, but a recent study showed that sleeping for over nine hours a night and sitting for extended periods of time can actually shorten one’s life.

And when a lack of exercise is added into the mix, a “triple whammy” effect ensues, according to lead study author Dr. Melody Ding, who defined too little exercise as less than 150 minutes of activity every week.

Photo: Paisley Scotland | Flickr

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