Consistent Exercise May Fight Insomnia

We all know that exercise is essential. In the past, we have written about how “weekend warriors” who pack their exercise into two days a week reap the same rewards as those who spread it out. But, a new study has found that exercise throughout the week may have a significant benefit. People who exercise two to three times over the course of the week have lower levels of insomnia and are more likely to sleep six to eight hours every night.

The 10-year study used 4,399 participants. They completed questionnaires about their exercise habits, sleep patterns and daytime drowsiness. Over the 10 years, 37 percent were persistently physically inactive, 20 percent became inactive, 18 percent became physically active and 25 percent were persistently active.

People who regularly exercised for the duration of the study tended to sleep best. The consistent exercisers tended to be younger, male and had lower body weights. People who were older, female or have a higher body weight tended to have more problems sleeping.

The people who consistently exercise were 42 percent less likely to have problems falling asleep. They were also 22 percent less likely to have any symptoms of insomnia. They were 55 percent more likely to be normal sleepers who slept between six to eight hours a night. People who became active over the course of the study were 21 percent more likely to become normal sleepers. Those who were active and became inactive lost their sleep benefits.

Our results are in line with previous studies that have shown a beneficial effect of physical activity on symptoms of insomnia, but the current study additionally shows the importance of consistency in exercise over time,” said lead author and sleep expert at Reykjavik Univ. Dr. Erla Björnsdóttir. “It therefore matters to be physically active throughout your life in order to reduce the risk of insomnia and short sleep duration.”

An interesting discovery in the study is that daytime drowsiness wasn’t linked to exercise. The researchers found no link between how alert someone was during the day and how alert they were during the day. They also found that workouts didn’t have to be strenuous. Moderately intense exercise like walking and yoga had a significant positive impact on sleep.  

If you have trouble sleeping, you aren’t alone. One in three people in the U.S. has insomnia. By exercising regularly you may be able to help yourself overcome your problem. However, you must stick to it, or it will be a temporary fix.

Banner image: Ev via Unsplash

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