Exercise Is The Key To Good Sleep

Hitting the gym close to bedtime could be the key to a decent night of sleep, according to a new study carried out by the National Sleep Foundation.

The annual 2013 Sleep in America poll was conducted with a sample of 1,000 adults ranging in age from 23 to 60 years. The most complete data available was determined using U.S. Census data from 2010.

Physical activity was considered activity that exceeded 10 minutes in the past seven days, and participants were separated into four different levels of activity:

  • vigorous: activities which require hard physical effort like running, cycling, swimming or competitive sports.
  • moderate: activities which require more effort than normal like weight lifting, tai chi, and yoga.
  • light activity: walking.
  • no activity: those who completed no activity.

Exercisers Report Better Sleep

The poll found that exercisers documented better sleep than non-exercisers despite sleeping the same length of time every night, on average 6 hours and 51 minutes.

Light, moderate, and vigorous exercisers were more likely to say “I had a good night’s sleep” almost every night or every night on work nights than non-exercisers (67% vs. 39%).

Additionally, over three-fourths of exercisers (76%-83%) said in the last two weeks that their sleep quality was very good or fairly good, compared to just over one-half of non-exercisers (56%).

Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, poll task force chair said:

“If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep. Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better.”

Hirshkowitz also pointed out that he does not think good sleep drives us to exercise, instead he believes it is exercising that improves the quality of sleep.

Vigorous Exercisers Report Good Sleep

Self-described vigorous exercisers were more likely to report “I had a good night’s sleep” almost every night or every night during the working week.

Their group was least likely to document having sleep problems. Over two-thirds of vigorous exercisers say they almost never or never in the last two weeks exhibited symptoms linked to insomnia, such as waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep (72%) or having trouble falling asleep (69%).

On the other hand, one-half (50%) of non-exercisers reported waking up during the night and close to one-fourth (24%) had trouble falling asleep every night or close to every night.