Exercise Your Way to Better Sleep

Regular exercise may improve sleep quality of older adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As people get older, a good night's sleep can be harder to come by, but exercise may offer a restful solution.

A recent study found that older adults who exercised more often spent less time awake at night than people who exercised less often.

According to the study findings, for older adults, short-term exercise may improve sleep quality, while long-term exercise may lead to less time spent awake during the night.

"Exercise regularly every week."

This study was led by Joseph M. Dzierzewski, PhD, in the  Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center in the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Healthcare System. The research team examined the short- and long-term relationships between exercise and sleep in older adults.

Data was analyzed from the Active Adult Mentoring Program (Project AAMP), an intervention program to increase moderate-intensity exercise in older adults. The participants consisted of 79 individuals who were age 50 or older and living an inactive lifestyle (getting less than the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week).

The average age of the participants was 63.6 years and the sample was mainly female (83.5 percent). 

The participants reported daily how often they engaged in mild, moderate or strenuous physical activity for 20 minutes for 126 days. They also completed sleep diaries for 126 days in which they recorded how long it took them to fall asleep after lying down for the evening, the amount of time they spent awake during the night and their overall quality of sleep.

The researchers took into account the following factors when analyzing their findings: age, gender, education level and body mass index (a measure of height and weight).

The researchers found that people who exercised more often were more likely to report spending less time awake at night, while exercising the day before was associated with a report of better sleep quality.

They also found that sleep quality was a short-term predictor of future exercise behavior.

As the study authors noted, their findings suggest that short-term exercise (e.g., a single workout) may help improve sleep quality in older adults, while more prolonged exercise may help reduce the amount of time spent awake during the night.

"This study confirms the exercise-sleep cycle, the more you exercise, the more you sleep. The better sleep you get, the more prone you are to exercise. This makes sense because no one wants to exercise when they're exhausted," Rusty Gregory, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and dailyRx Contributing Expert, told dailyRx News.

Since sleep was found to be a predictor of future exercise behavior, the authors recommended that intervention efforts for exercise should take sleep into account.

This study was published on August 24 in the Journal of Sleep Research.

The study authors did not report any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 27, 2013
Last Updated:
August 28, 2013