Can exercise help you sleep better? The NY Times explores…
Most people who do moderate levels of exercise sleep better than those who do not says a new study. Aside from physical exhaustion, a new study shows that exercise enhances the ability to sleep well.
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As a clinical psychologist and sleep researcher at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, Kelly Glazer Baron frequently heard complaints from aggrieved patients about exercise. They would work out, they told her, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, but they would not sleep better that night.
Dr. Baron was surprised and perplexed. A fan of exercise for treating sleep problems, but also a scientist, she decided to examine more closely the day-to-day relationship between sweat and sleep.
What she and her colleagues found, according to a study published last week in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, is that the influence of daily exercise on sleep habits is more convoluted than many of us might expect and that, in the short term, sleep may have more of an impact on exercise than exercise has on sleep.
To reach that conclusion, Dr. Baron and her colleagues turned to data from a study of exercise and sleep originally published in 2010. For that experiment, researchers had gathered a small group of women (and one man) who had received diagnoses of insomnia. The volunteers were mostly in their 60s, and all were sedentary.
Then the researchers randomly assigned their volunteers either to remain inactive or to begin a moderate endurance exercise program, consisting of three or four 30-minute exercise sessions per week, generally on a stationary bicycle or treadmill, that were performed in the afternoon. This 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. They slept, on average, about 45 minutes to an hour longer on most nights, waking up less often and reporting more vigor and less sleepiness.