Background: Sleep deprivation negatively affects cognition, pain, mood, metabolism, and immunity, which can reduce athletic performance. Melatonin facilitates sleepiness and may be affected by the proximity of exercise to sleep. Purpose: To evaluate the influence of exercise time of day on salivary melatonin (s-melatonin) responses. Methods: Twelve regularly exercising men (age 20.75 [0.62] y, height 1.75 [0.04] m, mass 73.63 [10.43] kg, and maximal oxygen consumption 57.72 [6.11] mL/kg/min) participated in a randomized, crossover design. Subjects completed 3 protocols—morning exercise (09:00 h), afternoon exercise (16:00 h), and no exercise (CON)—at least 5 d apart. Exercise sessions consisted of 30 min of steady-state running at 75% of maximal oxygen consumption. Saliva was collected via passive drool at 20:00, 22:00, and 03:00 h following all sessions. Results: Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed significant time (P = .001) and condition (P = .026) effects for melatonin. Levels of s-melatonin were significantly increased at 03:00 h compared with 20:00 and 22:00 h for all conditions. Post hoc analyses revealed that s-melatonin at 22:00 h was significantly higher after morning exercise (16.5 [7.5] pg/mL) compared with afternoon exercise (13.7 [6.1] pg/mL) sessions (P = .03), whereas neither exercise condition significantly differed from the control (P > .05). Conclusions: It appears that exercising in the afternoon may blunt melatonin secretion compared with morning exercise. If sleep is an issue, morning exercise may be preferable to afternoon exercise.
Carlson, Pobocik, and Lawrence are with the Dept of Physical Therapy, and Brazeau, the Dept of Biomedical Science, University of New England, Portland, ME. Carlson is also with the Center for Excellence in Neurosciences, University of New England, Biddeford, ME. Koch is with the College of Health Sciences, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC.
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