by Dr James Nguyen
As we all know – our bodies are designed to move! The problem is that we are no longer gathering, hunting and exploring like our ancestors did. Instead, the majority of us are sedentary for at least 12 hours a day.
Moderate to intense exercise has many benefits but among them is directly and indirectly improving sleep.
A direct effect of sleep is reducing sleep onset, which is the time it takes someone to fall asleep. This will in turn reduce the time the person spends in bed laying awake. Physical activity can help alleviate sleepiness during the day and reduce the need for sleep medication.
Exercise can have an effect on sleep indirectly as well. We all know that it is one of the most important tools to keep an adequate weight range which in turn reduces the chances of obesity contributing to sleep apnea – whereby 60% of cases are attributed.
Numerous studies have also shown the direct correlation between exercise and having a good night’s sleep. This includes a 2003 study by the National Sleep Foundation in America which studied adults between 55 and 84. 52% of the cohort said that they exercised 3 or more times a week and 26% said that they exercised once or no times a week. The latter group experiences poorer sleep quality, getting less than 6 hours sleep a night, struggling with falling and getting to sleep and also suffered from conditions such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
Furthermore, a more recent study in 2013 surveyed younger adults between the ages of 20-60 and found that 75% of people who engaged in light to moderate exercise had better sleep quality compared with only 56% of people who did no physical activity.
What’s interesting is that jobs that involve manual labour did not correlate well with having a good night’s rest. A reason for this is because most labour intensive jobs involve repetitive movements which therefore contribute to musculoskeletal conditions. These occupations also involve high stress levels associated with working long hours which will also contribute to poorer sleep quality.
So next time you ponder whether you should go on that run or to pump out those weights – imagine yourself lying in your comfortable bed and potentially falling asleep in minutes instead of hours!