To determine whether exercise duration effects the recovery sleep following exercise, eight fit male endurance athletes, ages 23-42 yr, had their sleep electrophysiologically studied. This was done on four separate occasions: after a day on which no specific exercise was performed; after a day of a 15-km run; after a 42.2-km run day; after a day in which the athletes participated in a strenuous ultra-triathlon. Sleep patterns following the no exercise day and the 15-km and the 42.2-km run days were similar. The sleep pattern of the ultra-triathlon day when compared with the other three days showed significantly increased wakefulness and delayed and decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The duration of slow wave sleep (SWS) in the first 6 h after lights out, however, was no different. The increased wakefulness and decreased REM clearly indicate increased stress after the ultra-triathlon. REM sleep appears to be a more sensitive index of exercise induced stress than SWS.
(C)1994The American College of Sports Medicine