Exercise can improve sleep by reducing sleep latency and increasing slow-wave sleep (SWS). Some studies, however, report adverse effects of exercise on sleep architecture, possibly due to a wide variety of experimental conditions used. We examined the effect of exercise on quality of sleep using standardized exercise parameters and novel analytical methods. In a cross-over intervention study we examined the effect of 60 min of vigorous exercise at 60% V˙ O 2max on the metabolic state, assessed by core body temperature and indirect calorimetry, and on sleep quality during subsequent sleep, assessed by self-reported quality of sleep and polysomnography. In a novel approach, envelope analysis was performed to assess SWS stability. Exercise increased energy expenditure throughout the following sleep phase. The subjective assessment of sleep quality was not improved by exercise. Polysomnography revealed a shorter rapid eye movement latency and reduced time spent in SWS. Detailed analysis of the sleep electro-encephalogram showed significantly increased delta power in SWS (N3) together with increased SWS stability in early sleep phases, based on delta wave envelope analysis. Although vigorous exercise does not lead to a subjective improvement in sleep quality, sleep function is improved on the basis of its effect on objective EEG parameters.
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