Get Active, Sleep Better

A study has suggested that women who participate in a high level of physical activity may protect themselves from future insomnia. The study – led by Søren Spörndly-Nees from Uppsala University, Sweden – asked participants to take two questionnaires, ten years apart. The first was provided in 2000 and the second in 2010. Over 5000 women completed the survey, giving personal details as well as information on the amount of physical activity they undertook and their sleeping habits.

Searching for answers

The authors of the article – published in the April 2017 edition of Sleep Medicine – felt there was a dearth of research on the subject. So they set out to look into the possibility that physical activity has a preventative and protective effect against insomnia.

Runner silhouetted against a low lying sun Higher levels of physical activity are associated with lower levels of insomnia. After collecting the data from the second questionnaire, they collated the information, taking many mitigating factors into account. These included smoking and alcohol dependence, age, body mass index (BMI) and education. The study’s final results indicated that women who had increased their level of physical activity over the ten-year time period benefited most. The biggest average change in the ability to avoid insomnia came from women who had low levels of physical activity in 2000, but by 2010 had increased their levels to high. There was worse news for the women who remained at a low level of activity between the two questionnaires, as they came out with the highest incidence of insomnia. All in all, the results point to exercise having a positive effect on the participants’ ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Protect yourself

In general, life seems to be becoming more and more focused on sitting staring at a screen. This study is a good reminder of how important both exercise and sleep are in enabling us to look after ourselves and protect our quality of life. Insomnia affects every part of a sufferer’s life, day and night. Lack of sleep, or disturbed sleep is often something that is easily brushed off as just one of those things, but it can negatively affect everything from mood, to physical ability, to cognitive ability, to mental health. Higher levels of physical activity, as suggested by the study, “High or increasing levels of physical activity protect women from future insomnia”, let your body know that it has earned its rest physically. Sometimes getting yourself up with the express intention of tiring yourself out – especially if you already feel tired and lethargic from a long day – may seem like a chore. However, both its immediate, and knock-on, effects should not be underestimated.