The Connection Between Strength Training & Better Sleep

Lift some lbs to get some Zzzz’s.

By: Emily Freeman

You roll over, open your eyes, and let out a big sigh of frustration. It’s been an hour since you shut out the lights and got curled up in bed, and yet you haven’t had a minute of sleep yet. You lay there for a minute wondering if you should read a book. You’re tired, so that doesn’t sound appealing, and you’re sure if you just close your eyes one more time, it will be the moment you fall asleep. Sometimes you’re right, but when you have too many restless nights too frequently, it starts to wear on you. 

If you’re feeling alone in this struggle, just know 68% of adults in the US say they have trouble sleeping at least once per week. Between work, children, relationships, health, and the very unpredictable state of our world right now, there are plenty of worries that can keep us up at night if we don’t know how to manage our minds and bodies. If you’re looking for a better night’s sleep, it’s time to add some strength training to your routine.

RELATED: 20 Life-Changing Sleep Hacks For When You’re Tired of Being Tired 

What Research Shows About Strength Training & Sleep

Science has shown that incorporating strength training improves the quality of sleep, helps you fall asleep faster, and wake up less throughout the night. The study examined the exercise and sleep habits of 23,000 adults in Germany and found that participants who included any resistance training in their weekly workouts slept better than those who didn’t. The research also shows that the correlation is not dose-dependent. So, even a single strength training workout may lead to a better night’s sleep. 

How Strength Training Helps Sleep

Any exercise can help you get a better night’s sleep. However, strength training for sleep can be more effective because it uses more adenosine, which becomes adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, during your workouts. As ATP is depleted during exercise, it breaks back down into adenosine, which causes drowsiness. Strength training has also been proven to reduce stress, improve the digestive breakdown of fat and sugar, and reduce blood pressure, all of which help sleep quality. Helllooo sweet slumber!

What’s Considered Strength Training & How to Use it to Improve Sleep

Strength training is a form of resistance training, that focuses on exercise types, frequency, intensity, and the proper number of reps and sets intended to build muscular strength. However, traditional strength training isn’t the only way to get a better night’s sleep. Exercise that improves muscular endurance and hypertrophy can give similar results.

RELATED: 5 Must-Learn Strength Moves For Beginners

#1 Resistance Training

Resistance training focuses on building muscular endurance versus pure strength. But don’t let that fool you. Reformer and megaformer Pilates, resistance band exercises, free weights, cable machines, certain types of HIIT, and Barre are all types of resistance training that will kick your booty.

If this sounds like your jam, start by adding in two to three days of total body resistance training routines to start getting a better slumber. You’ll want to choose the right amount of resistance where you can complete 12 to 15 reps but the last two or three of them feel challenging. This will keep you in the muscular endurance range. 

#2 Weight Lifting

Weight lifting is one of the most popular ways to build muscle and strength because of its versatility and effectiveness. It’s not just limited to dumbbells. Barbells, strength machines, and cables can all be a part of your weight lifting routine. Whether you want to focus on traditional strength training to build lean muscle mass or resistance training, weight lifting can be programmed for either… or both! The difference comes down to the amount of weight, reps, rest, and types of exercises you choose. 

#3 Bodyweight Exercises 

No equipment? You can still strength train for sleep! Your body weight is enough to start creating the reactions in your body to feel the benefits of strength training. To get started, you can focus on traditional strength training moves without additional resistance like squats, hip-bridges, lunges, planks, push-ups, triceps dips, and lying leg lifts. To take it up a notch, try adding in plyometric exercises like jump squats, jump lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, and broad jumps. 

You can also incorporate other forms of bodyweight strength training like Pilates, Barre, HIIT, circuit training, and some forms of yoga. All of which can be found in the FitOn app to keep you accountable and make sure you’re implementing proper form for the best results!

Starting a weight lifting routine doesn’t have to be complicated. To get started you’ll want to focus on adding two to three days of weight lifting on non-consecutive days. Focus on bigger compound movements like rows, squats, deadlifts, chest presses, shoulder presses, and lat pulldowns that target major muscle groups.

Exercise Timing & Sleep

The best time of day to exercise for sleep? Well, the findings are pretty inconclusive because it can depend on your natural circadian rhythm. If you’re a natural night owl, you would probably bode well from later evening workouts. However, if you’re an early bird, working out in the morning is your best bet to get to bed at a decent hour. Rule of thumb? Avoid any strenuous exercise at least 90 minutes before bed.

Intensity & Workout Length 

You don’t need to work out intensely every day or for hours on end to get a good night’s sleep. If you aren’t seeing or feeling the benefits of regular exercise, make sure you’re getting at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. Doing more than that is great, however, you can get too much of a good thing. The intensity and length of a workout vary greatly depending on your body type, fitness level, nutrition, and sleep. However, you’ll want to watch out for these signs of overtraining and make sure your workout routine has a balance of shorter, more intense workouts and longer, more moderate workouts for optimal results. 

RELATED: What is Overtraining Syndrome + Why It May Stall Results

Strength Workout Frequency 

When it comes to strength training for sleep, more is not always better. Training over six days per week and not giving your muscles adequate rest can actually disrupt your slumber. Make sure you’re getting at least one if not two rest days per week and you give each muscle group at least 48 hours to rest. This is why if you are training your entire body during each workout, they need to be on non-consecutive days. If you want to train more frequently, you can use split days, where you target certain body parts each session, to reduce your risk of over-training. 

A typical split can look like two upper-body days and two lower-body days per week.  I.e. upper body on Monday, lower body on Tuesday, upper body on Thursday, and lower body on Friday.

Your Health Starts and Ends With Sleep! 

Getting enough sleep is a crucial part of being healthy and fit. If you aren’t getting the recommended seven to eight hours per night, your workouts, waistline, cognitive performance, mood, and muscle growth potential can all be impacted. Adding in strength training to your workouts is a great way to make sure you’re staying on top of your fitness and also meeting your sleep goals (yes, we’re making it a thing!). Whether you need some extra guidance, motivation, or some new inspiration, head on over to the FitOn app to check out all of our effective and fun strength workouts.