Monika Fleshner's group presented data at the Society for Neuroscience Conference in
Before stress, exercised rats spent more of their time in REM sleep—the stage of sleep when dreams occur—compared to non-exercising rats. Directly after the stress, all the rats had a rough time sleeping—they got the same amount of REM sleep whether it was day or night. But by the very next day, the running rats were able to recover their sleeping habits. The sedentary rats struggled for a few more days.
|Exercised rats dream [big] more. Are they hoping to get to the Trials, too?|
But rats are rats, what about people?
Most of the studies on people (described here, here, and here) don't look at stress, but agree that running helps sleep in general. In contrast to rats, however, exercise decreases REM sleep in humans, while increasing non-REM sleep (including deep sleep). When looking at people who have trouble sleeping, like insomniacs, exercise takes longer to have an effect. But the moral of the story is the same: exercise will eventually help you sleep, no matter how stressed.
Another interesting story from the Society for Neuroscience conference: When asked if mental games (like crosswords) or exercise is better for brain health, scientists agreed that the jocks win. So put your crossword down and go for a run! If nothing else, maybe you’ll get a better night's sleep instead of tossing and turning over the answer to 7 Down.
Dream big and sleep well,