Study objectives: To examine the effects of a moderate-intensity exercise or stretching intervention and changes in fitness, body mass index, or time spent outdoors on self-reported sleep quality and to examine the relationship between the amount and timing of exercise and sleep quality.
Design: A randomized intervention trial.
Setting: A cancer research center in Seattle, Washington.
Participants: Postmenopausal, overweight or obese, sedentary women not taking hormone replacement therapy, aged 50 to 75 years, and recruited from the Seattle metropolitan area.
Interventions: A yearlong moderate-intensity exercise (n=87) and a low-intensity stretching (n=86) program.
Measurements and results: Among morning exercisers, those who exercised at least 225 minutes per week had less trouble falling asleep (odds ratio [OR]: 0.3, P < or = .05) compared with those who exercised less than 180 minutes per week. However, among evening exercisers, those who exercised at least 225 minutes per week had more trouble falling asleep (OR: 3.3, P < or = .05) compared to those who exercised less than 180 minutes per week. Stretchers were less likely to use sleep medication (OR = 0.4, P < or = .05) and have trouble falling asleep (OR: 0.7, P < or = .10) during the intervention period compared with baseline. A greater than 10% versus a 1% or less increase in maximum O2 consumption over the year was associated with longer sleep duration (P < or = .05), less frequently falling asleep during quiet activities (P < or = .05), and less use of sleep medication (P < or = .05). Reductions in body mass index and increases in time spent outdoors had inconsistent effects on sleep quality.
Conclusions: Both stretching and exercise interventions may improve sleep quality in sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal women. Increased fitness was associated with improvements in sleep. However, the effect of moderate-intensity exercise may depend on the amount of exercise and time of day it is performed.