Background: It is generally believed that exercise exerts a beneficial effect on the quality of sleep. However, most studies regarding exercise and sleep have been concerned with the influence of exercise on sleep architecture and efficiency, and not on its effects in the prevention and treatment of sleep disorders. Moreover, epidemiological evidence of the benefits of exercise on sleep are limited.
Objective: To investigate the influence of moderate exercise or physical activity on self-reported sleep disorders among a randomly selected population of adults.
Subjects and methods: Study subjects were participants in the Tucson Epidemiological Study of Obstructive Airways Disease who in the 12th survey completed health questionnaires that included several questions on physical exercise and sleep disorders. Sleep disorders were classified as disorders in maintaining sleep, excessive daily sleepiness, nightmares, and any sleep disorder. Six questions regarding exercise and physical activity were asked. Analyses were performed using multivariate logistic regression models with selected measures of sleep disorders as dependent variables and measures of exercise and physical activity as the independent or predictor variables.
Results: There were 319 men and 403 women included in the analyses. The results showed that more women than men reported participating in a regular exercise program and having sleep symptoms of disorders in maintaining sleep and nightmares and that more men than women did regular vigorous activity and walking at a brisk pace for more than 6 blocks per day. Both men and women had significantly reduced risk of disorders in maintaining sleep associated with regular activity at least once a week, participating regularly in an exercise program, and walking at a normal pace for more than 6 blocks per day. Reduced risk of any sleep disorder was associated with regular activity at least once a week, and for men, walking at a brisk pace for more than 6 blocks. Among women increases in age also reduced the risk of nightmares.
Conclusions: These data provide additional evidence that a program of regular exercise may be a useful therapeutic modality in the treatment of patients with sleep disorders.