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Sweating off insomnia works, study contends

Filed in
  • Exercise
  • Insomnia

American Academy of Sleep Medicine  |  Sep 15, 2010
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The benefit of exercise for insomnia continues to be a hotly debated topic in the sleep research community. Recently, several high-profile reports have come to conflicting conclusions on whether a workout routine can promote sleep.

The latest published study by Northwestern University researchers shifts the argument back in favor of exercise for insomnia. The article concludes that older adults can counteract the sleeplessness associated with aging by taking up an aerobic workout routine.

Many of the adults who started exercising during the study improved from poor sleepers to good sleepers. The group reported reduced depression and overall improved mood along with enhanced of sleep quality.

The study involved 23 mainly sedentary adults of average age of 55. The group was randomly assigned to either aerobic conditioning or a non-physical activity such as a cooking class or museum lecture. Only the exercise group saw improved sleep.

A June study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine came to a similar conclusion for slightly younger insomnia patients. A 50-minute jog on the treadmill 4-8 hours before bedtime helped middle-aged insomniacs sleep sooner. Moderate aerobic exercise was more effective in promoting sleep than high-intensity cardiac routines or resistance training. The authors believe the routine helps with bedtime anxiety.

Another study published in May claims the benefits are all mental. Swiss researchers found people who rated themselves as physically fit slept better, even if they were not necessarily in good physical shape.

Normal adults with no history of insomnia may not see any benefit at all, a 2003 study concluded. Wrist actigraphy demonstrated active young adults fell asleep only a minute and a half faster than their peers.

In some cases exercising can actually hurt sleep. Never exercise within a few hours of bedtime. Evening workouts run counter to the evening wind-down process and can actually make you wake up.

There's one thing all sleep experts can agree on: exercise is important for your overall health. While insomnia may or may not improve, you’re reducing your risk of getting obstructive sleep apnea by controlling your weight and taking care of your body.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Karen 10 Nov
    I come from a science bagcorkund and you do need to lose weight.I put on 140 lbs over a two and a half year period and my sleep patterns were dreadful.I only have 16lbs to loose now and it is completely different. My sleep is now norma- I am asthmatic. This might be the sole root of your problem but is certainly a contributory factor.