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Sleep onset is disrupted following pre-sleep exercise that causes large physiological excitement at bedtime

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Many studies have failed to show that pre-sleep exercise has a negative effect on sleep onset. However, since only a moderate level of physiological excitement was observed at bedtime in these studies, it remains unclear whether a larger magnitude of physiologic excitement present at bedtime would disrupt sleep onset. This study compared the effects of pre-sleep exercise, which led to different levels of physiologic excitement at bedtime (moderate and heavy), on sleep onset.


Twelve active young men underwent non-exercise, moderate-intensity exercise, and high-intensity exercise conditions. The subjects maintained a sedentary condition on a reclining seat throughout the day. On the non-exercise day, the subjects remained seated at rest until going to bed. On the moderate- and high-intensity exercise days, the subject exercised for 40 min (21:20–22:00) at 60 and 80 % heart rate reserve, respectively. Sleep polysomnography, core body and skin temperatures, heart rate (HR), and heart rate variability (HRV) were recorded.


We observed a delay in sleep onset (+14.0 min, P < 0.05), a marked physiological excitement at bedtime as reflected by an increased HR (+25.7 bpm, P < 0.01), and a lower high-frequency power of HRV (−590 ms2, P < 0.01) only on the high-intensity exercise day.


These results indicate that pre-sleep vigorous exercise, which causes a large physiologic excitement at bedtime, might disrupt the onset of sleep.

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Analysis of variance


Beats min−1


Core body temperature








High-intensity exercise


High frequency


Heart rate


Heart rate variability


Moderate-intensity exercise




Non-rapid eye movement




Sleep polysomnography


Rapid eye movement




Visual analog scale


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This work was supported by the Academic Frontier, Project for Private Universities: matching fund and subsidy from MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), 2004–2008.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Correspondence to Shiro Oda.

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Communicated by William J. Kraemer.

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Oda, S., Shirakawa, K. Sleep onset is disrupted following pre-sleep exercise that causes large physiological excitement at bedtime. Eur J Appl Physiol 114, 1789–1799 (2014).

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