The Bidirectional Relationship Between Exercise and Sleep: Implications for Exercise Adherence and Sleep Improvement

Am J Lifestyle Med. Nov-Dec 2014;8(6):375-379. doi: 10.1177/1559827614544437.


Exercise has long been associated with better sleep, and evidence is accumulating on the efficacy of exercise as a nonpharmacologic treatment option for disturbed sleep. Recent research, however, has noted that poor sleep may contribute to low physical activity levels, emphasizing a robust bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep. This article will briefly review the evidence supporting the use of exercise as a nonpharmacologic treatment for sleep disturbance, outline future research that is needed to establish the viability of exercise as a behavioral sleep treatment, describe recent research that has emphasized the potential influence of poor sleep on daytime activity levels, and discuss whether improving sleep may facilitate adoption and/or better adherence to a physically active lifestyle. With poor sleep and physical inactivity each recognized as key public health priorities, additional research into the bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep has significant implications for facilitating greater exercise adherence and improving sleep in society.

Keywords: exercise; insomnia; obstructive sleep apnea; physical activity; sleep.