Physical exercise accelerates reentrainment of human sleep-wake cycle but not of plasma melatonin rhythm to 8-h phase-advanced sleep schedule

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010 Mar;298(3):R681-91. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00345.2009. Epub 2009 Dec 30.


Effects of timed physical exercise were examined on the reentrainment of sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms to an 8-h phase-advanced sleep schedule. Seventeen male adults spent 12 days in a temporal isolation facility with dim light conditions (<10 lux). The sleep schedule was phase-advanced by 8 h from their habitual sleep times for 4 days, which was followed by a free-run session for 6 days, during which the subjects were deprived of time cues. During the shift schedule, the exercise group (n = 9) performed physical exercise with a bicycle ergometer in the early and middle waking period for 2 h each. The control group (n = 8) sat on a chair at those times. Their sleep-wake cycles were monitored every day by polysomnography and/or weight sensor equipped with a bed. The circadian rhythm in plasma melatonin was measured on the baseline day before phase shift: on the 4th day of shift schedule and the 5th day of free-run. As a result, the sleep-onset on the first day of free-run in the exercise group was significantly phase-advanced from that in the control and from the baseline. On the other hand, the circadian melatonin rhythm was significantly phase-delayed in the both groups, showing internal desynchronization of the circadian rhythms. The sleep-wake cycle resynchronized to the melatonin rhythm by either phase-advance or phase-delay shifts in the free-run session. These findings indicate that the reentrainment of the sleep-wake cycle to a phase-advanced schedule occurs independent of the circadian pacemaker and is accelerated by timed physical exercise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / blood*
  • Photoperiod
  • Rectum
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Melatonin