Exercise Improves Sleep Quality, Poll Shows

Want to feel more rested when you wake up in the morning?

It may be as simple as making sure you exercise.

In fact, people who exercise report better sleep than those who don’t work out – even if they get the same amount of shut-eye every night, according to results from a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation.

“If you’re inactive, adding a 10-minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” said Max Hirshkowitz, chairman of the Foundation’s poll task force. “Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better.”

The poll also showed that the intensity of exercise influences how well people felt they slept. People who exercise vigorously were nearly twice as likely to report a good night’s sleep. They were also the least likely to report sleep problems, according to the poll results.

While more than two-thirds of vigorous exercisers said they rarely or never experiences insomnia symptoms, one-half of non-exercisers said they work up during the night and one-fourth had trouble falling asleep most nights.

“Poor sleep might lead to negative health partly because it makes people less inclined to exercise,” said Shawn Youngstedt, a member of the poll task force. “More than one half – 57 percent – of the total sample reported that their activity level will be less than usual after a night of poor sleep. Not exercising and not sleeping becomes a vicious cycle.”

People who don’t exercise also reported more symptoms of sleep apnea in the poll. The symptoms of sleep apnea – a condition in which a person stops breathing several times during sleep – include tiredness, snoring and high blood pressure. It can increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.

The poll results showed that 44 percent of people who don’t exercise had a moderate risk of sleep apnea. The risk decreased the more a person exercised.

“The poll data suggest that the risk of sleep apnea in exercisers is half that of non-exercisers,” said Christopher Kline, a member of the poll task force. “People with sleep apnea are often overweight. Exercise can be part of the treatment.”

To improve your sleep, try the following sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Create a sleep environment that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
  • Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
  • Use bright light to help manage your “body clock.” Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
  • Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a “worry book” so you can address those issues the next day.
  • If you can’t sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
  • If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, or “stop breathing” episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.

Source: National Sleep Foundation press release, National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 Sleep in America® poll.

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