What’s the relationship between physical exercise and the quality of your sleep? Dr. Kelly Baron is a sleep researcher at Northwestern University and she decided to find out.
She learned that the influence of daily exercise on sleep habits is somewhat complicated. In fact, in the short term, sleep may have more of an impact on exercise than exercise has on sleep.
The New York Times reports on Dr. Baron’s research, which looked at older people with insomnia, all of whom DIDN’T exercise. Half of the people in the study began a moderate exercise program, consisting of three or four 30-minute exercise sessions per week. The exercise program continued for 16 weeks.
At the end of that time, the volunteers in the exercise group were sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. But the positive effects of exercise didn’t occur right away.
After the first two months of their fitness program, the exercising volunteers weren’t sleeping any better than at the start of the study. It took four months of regular exercise before their insomnia improved substantially.
Dr. Baron also found another interesting connection between sleep and exercise. When the people in the study had a poor night of sleep, they were much less likely to get the full amount of exercise the next day.
According to Dr. Baron, at first glance, these results might seem “a bit discouraging.” But she points out that the volunteers in this study already had sleep problems. She says that people with chronic insomnia and other sleep disturbances tend to be “neurologically different.”
For most of us, better exercise during the day tends to lead to better sleep at night. But don’t exercise too closely to bedtime. Aerobic exercise raises the temperature of your body for a few hours, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.