According to a recent National Sleep Foundation (NSF) survey, there is a direct link between rigorous exercise and deep sleep.
“People who sleep better report exercising more, and people who exercise tend to sleep better,” says Matthew Buman, PhD., assistant professor of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University. “We know that life is very busy for many people. They’re not getting enough sleep, and they’re also not getting enough exercise.”
The NSF surveyed 1,000 people and discovered that 48 percent admitted to getting light physical activity on a regular basis. Twenty-five percent reported as moderately active, 18 percent as vigorous exercisers, and 9 percent as non-exercisers.
Out of all survey respondents, the vigorous exercisers reported the best sleep, with only 17 percent regularly experiencing poor sleep.
Of the 90 people who don’t exercise, nearly 50 percent said they sleep horribly.
Light exercisers even reported higher-quality of sleep than those who never exercise. “Small amounts of exercise is better than none,” says Buman.
Michael A. Grandner, a member of the Behavior Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania agrees. “Just moving a little bit might not be enough to drop pounds, but it can help improve your sleep, which itself has a lot of important, downstream positive effects.”
Researchers, including Buman, admit there are a number of factors involved in healthy sleep patterns and daily energy levels. Obesity, diabetes and smoking are among the top energy and sleep killers. Significant evidence has revealed that reducing weight, eating a diet centered on bettering diabetes, and stopping smoking can lead to dramatic improvements.
“If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” suggests Max Hirshkowitz, Ph.D, NSF poll task force chair.
The poll also revealed very little correlation between the time of day one exercises and sleep problems. However, Grandner suggests, “if you can get your activity at least an hour or two before bed, that’s probably ideal.”
Other key sleep studies implicate exercise as a much better alternative to sleep medications.
According to a Northwestern University sleep study in 2010, regular exercise can help take an individual’s diagnosis from poor to good sleeper. It also found that drug-free sleep treatment, which usually includes regular exercise, is normally the very best medicine.