Exercise key to good sleep

Updated: Mar 05, 2013, 16:54 PM IST

Washington: Exercise can help you get a good night sleep, the results of the National Sleep Foundation`s 2013 Sleep in America poll have suggested.

Self-described exercisers report better sleep than self-described non-exercisers even though they say they sleep the same amount each night (6 hours and 51 minutes, average on weeknights), according to the poll.

"Exercise is great for sleep. For the millions of people who want better sleep, exercise may help," said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Vigorous, moderate and light exercisers are significantly more likely to say "I had a good night`s sleep" every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers. Also, more than three-fourths of exercisers say their sleep quality was very good or fairly good in the past two weeks, compared to slightly more than one-half of non-exercisers.

"If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night`s sleep," said Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, poll task force chair.

Vigorous exercisers are almost twice as likely as non-exercisers to report "I had a good night`s sleep" every night or almost every night during the week. They also are the least likely to report sleep problem, the survey revealed.

More than two-thirds of vigorous exercisers say they rarely or never (in the past 2 weeks) had symptoms commonly associated with insomnia, including waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep and difficulty falling asleep. In contrast, one-half of non-exercisers say they woke up during the night and nearly one-fourth had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night.

"Poor sleep might lead to negative health partly because it makes people less inclined to exercise," said Shawn Youngstedt, PhD, poll task force member.

Non-exercisers also tend toward being more excessively sleepy than exercisers. Nearly one-fourth of non-exercisers qualify as "sleepy" using a standard excessive sleepiness clinical screening measure. This sleepiness level occurs about twice as often than for exercisers. Also, about six in ten of non-exercisers say they rarely or never have a good night`s sleep on work nights, the poll found.

Sleepiness clearly interferes with many non-exercisers` safety and quality of life. One in seven non-exercisers report having trouble staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity at least once a week in the past two weeks, almost three times the rate of those who exercise.

Indeed, non-exercisers have more symptoms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep.

"The poll data suggest that the risk of sleep apnea in exercisers is half that of non-exercisers," said Christopher Kline, PhD, poll task force member.

Separate from exercise, spending less time sitting may improve sleep quality and health, the poll suggested.

The survey found that those who sit for less than eight hours per day sitting are significantly more likely to say they have "very good" sleep quality than those who sit for eight hours or more.

Furthermore, significantly more of those who spend less than 10 hours per day sitting mention excellent health, compared to those who spend 10 hours or more sitting.

The survey also found those who report exercising close to bedtime and earlier in the day do not demonstrate a difference in self-reported sleep quality. In fact, for most people exercise at any time seems to be better for sleep than no exercise at all.

This finding contradicts long-standing "sleep hygiene" tips that advise everyone not to exercise close to bedtime.

" Exercise is beneficial to sleep. It`s time to revise global recommendations for improving sleep and put exercise-any time-at the top of our list for healthy sleep habits," said Dr. Barbara Phillips, poll task force member.