Trouble sleeping, waking up feeling exhausted or feel sleepy during the day?
Sleep plays a vital role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of almost every body system. Ongoing poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and stroke.
More studies also suggest that when sleep is restricted to less than seven hours per day, the brain has less time to clear beta-amyloid away, leading to accumulation and raising the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Lack of sleep can occur for a range of reasons including stress, tiredness, illness, or other interruptions to your regular routine. If you typically have problems sleeping at night, wake up feeling exhausted, or feel sleepy during the day, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Exercise and Sleep
There are many benefits to exercising regularly. These include a lower risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes, improved physical function, and a higher quality of life.
The relationship between exercise and sleep has been extensively investigated. Previous studies have noted that regular exercise can help with sleep. Recent research also suggests insufficient or poor-quality sleep can lead to lower physical activity levels the following day.
Here’s a piece of good news… according to an observational study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), doing enough physical activity may counter some of the adverse health effects of poor sleep.
The research included 380,055 middle-aged adults from the UK Biobank as participants. They are grouped based on their sleep behaviour as to healthy, intermediate and poor with an established composited sleep score of chronotype (night owl vs. morning lark tendencies), sleep duration, the presence of insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and snoring — to score participants on a scale from 0 to 5.
Their level of physical activity was categorised based on the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. People who met the upper bounds of the guidelines did 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. Those who met the lower bound did 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week.
The study started in 2006, and in May 2020, researchers followed up with the participants. A total of 15,503 participants died, of which 4,095 died from heart disease and 9,064 from cancer.
The group with poor sleep and who didn’t do moderate-to-vigorous physical activity from the WHO guidelines had the highest risk of dying from any cause, cardiovascular disease, and any type of cancer. On the other hand, those who had poor sleep but did enough physical activity didn’t have an increased risk of death.
What does this study imply?
The research shows an association between adequate physical activity and reduced harm from poor sleep. It offers a hopeful message that even if you aren’t able to specifically improve your sleep, you can still offset some health harms by doing enough exercise.
If you have trouble sleeping and are worried about your health, this study shows that you can reduce this impact by ensuring you are physically active. You may not be able to fix your sleep difficulty on your own, but at least the result shows that you can do something whilst working with your healthcare professionals to investigate your sleep problems.
If you’ve tried various self-help remedies at home and kept in touch with your healthcare professional but without success, you might want to schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist for better assistance.
Related links and posts:
- Link to research article in British Journal of Sports Medicine
- Interview with authors from the Health Report podcast
- Sleep and exercise
Need more information on how you can sleep better?
At Sleephub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions. You can also check out our extensive resources and subscribe to our podcast.