High exercise levels are related to favorable sleep patterns and psychological functioning in adolescents: a comparison of athletes and controls

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Feb;46(2):133-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.06.018. Epub 2009 Aug 18.


Purpose: To investigate whether chronic vigorous exercising is related to improved sleep and psychological functioning, and whether this association varies with gender. Both lay and scientific opinions hold that physical activity is an efficient remedy and preventative measure for poor sleep. However, empirical evidence on adolescents is very limited.

Methods: A total of 434 adolescents (258 athletes, 176 controls; mean age 17.2 years) took part in the study. Weekly hours spent exercising were 17.69 hours and 4.69 hours, respectively. To assess sleep patterns and psychological functioning, participants completed a sleep log for 7 consecutive days and several self-rating questionnaires.

Results: Compared with controls, athletes reported better sleep patterns including higher sleep quality, shortened sleep onset latency, and fewer awakenings after sleep onset, as well as less tiredness and increased concentration during the day. Athletes reported significantly lower anxiety and fewer depressive symptoms. Compared with males, females reported fewer variations in sleep. Male controls had particularly unfavorable scores related to sleep and psychological functioning.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that chronic vigorous exercising is positively related to adolescents' sleep and psychological functioning. Results also indicate that males with low exercise levels are at risk for increased sleep complaints and poorer psychological functioning.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adolescent
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult