The Grapevine

Some Physical Activity Promotes Sleep Better Than Others: A Comprehensive Guide

Physical activity
A new study from Penn Medicine finds the way people like to sweat impacts their sleep for better or worse. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

It is well-known regular exercise inspires a healthy sleep schedule — but do certain exercises have an advantage over others? Yes, says a forthcoming study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The findings will be presented during the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, during the week of June 6 in Seattle, Wash.

Dr. Michael Grandner and his team used data on sleep and physical activities collected from the nearly 430,000 adults in the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems. These adults reported their most frequent type of physical activity, plus how much sleep they get on a typical day. Researchers then measured whether the provided activities (10 in total) were associated with the typical amount of sleep compared to participants not working out or participants who liked to walk.

Compared to participants who did not work out the previous month, all types of activity were associated with improved sleep quality: aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weightlifting, yoga, and Pilates. The only activities associated with poor sleep quality were housework and childcare — interesting, Grandner said in a press release, considering “home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”

Similarly, Grandner was surprised to see people who get exercise simply by walking tended to have healthier sleep habits, though sleep was greater among those doing aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golf, running, weight-lifting, yoga, and Pilates.

“These results are consistent with the growing scientific literature on the role of sleep in human performance,” he added. “Lab studies show that lack of sleep is associated with poor physical and mental performance, and this study shows us that this is consistent with real-world data as well.”

One study published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity found 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week, which is the national recommendation, led to a 65 percent increase in overall sleep quality. The National Sleep Foundation cited study participants felt less sleep during the day, too, compared to those not working out as much.

Grandner made a point to note these results are only correlational, so there still needs to be additional research and studies on the link between certain kinds of physical activity and better or worse sleep.

Source: Grandner M. Penn Medicine. 2015.

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