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Yoga was amongst the activities which, researchers found, aided healthy sleep

How you exercise could affect how well you sleep

16 June, 2015

Natural Health News —Being physically active can help solve your sleep problems – but there’s a catch, as some types of physical activity may leave you more prone to insomnia.

The large study used data on sleep and physical activities of 429,110 adults and measured whether each of 10 types of activities was associated with typical amount of sleep, relative to both no activity and to walking.

Participants were surveyed to find out what type of physical activity they spent the most time doing in the past month, and also asked how much sleep they got in a typical 24-hour period. Since previous studies showed that people who get less than 7 hours are at greater risk for poor health and functioning, the study evaluated whether people who reported specific activities were more likely to also report sufficient sleep.

What you need to know

» Physically active individuals tend to sleep better – but not all physical activity has the same benefits.

» A recent study found that activities, such as walking, as well as aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, and yoga aided sleep while housework and childcare did not.

Housework could worsen sleep

What they found was that  physical activities, such as walking, as well as aerobics/calisthenics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting, and yoga/Pilates are associated with better sleep habits, compared to no activity, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

In contrast, the study shows that other types of physical activity – such as household and childcare work – are associated with increased cases of poor sleep habits. These results were adjusted for age, sex, education level, and body mass index.

The full results of the study were presented during at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Surprising results

“Although previous research has shown that lack of exercise is associated with poor sleep, the results of this study were surprising,” said lead researcher Michael Grandner, PhD, instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.,

“Not only does this study show that those who get exercise simply by walking are more likely to have better sleep habits, but these effects are even stronger for more purposeful activities, such as running and yoga, and even gardening and golf. It was also interesting that people who receive most of their activity from housework and childcare were more likely to experience insufficient sleep – we know that home and work demands are some of the main reasons people lose sleep.”

It is possible that housework and childcare, although physically demanding, also bring with them an element of focussing on other people and things, whereas those activities that enhanced sleep were typically those that absorb one completely or allow one to ‘let go’.

“These results are consistent with the growing scientific literature on the role of sleep in human performance,” said Grandner, though he notes that “more studies are needed to help us understand whether certain kinds of physical activity can actually improve or worsen sleep, and how sleep habits help or hurt a person’s ability to engage in specific types of activity.”