Researchers have found people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Investigators reviewed a sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85. They discovered 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.
The physically active also reported less drowsiness during the day, compared to individuals with less physical activity. Researchers said the findings add to the mounting evidence of exercise benefiting physical and mental health.
The study will be published in the December issue of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Among adults in the United States, about 35 to 40 percent of the population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.
“We were using the physical activity guidelines set forth for cardiovascular health, but it appears that those guidelines might have a spillover effect to other areas of health,” said Brad Cardinal, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. “Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.”
After controlling for age, BMI (Body Mass Index), health status, smoking status, and depression, the relative risk of often feeling overly sleepy during the day compared to never feeling overly sleepy during the day decreased by 65 percent for participants meeting physical activity guidelines.
Similar results were also found for having leg cramps while sleeping (68 percent less likely) and having difficulty concentrating when tired (45 percent decrease).
“Our findings demonstrate a link between regular physical activity and perceptions of sleepiness during the day, which suggests that participation in physical activity on a regular basis may positively influence an individual’s productivity at work, or in the case of a student, influence their ability to pay attention in class,” said Paul Loprinzi, doctoral student and lead author of the study.
“Physical activity may not just be good for the waistline and heart, but it also can help you sleep,” Cardinal said. “There are trade-offs. It may be easier when you are tired to skip the workout and go to sleep, but it may be beneficial for your long-term health to make the hard decision and get your exercise.”
Source: Oregon State University