Sleep Better With Aerobic Exercise

Northwestern University researchers are reporting that millions of people with problems getting to sleep, or staying asleep may well be able to alleviate their sleep problems with a regime of regular aerobic exercise.

This new study is the first to examine the effects of aerobic exercise on the sleeping patterns, or insomnia, in adults middle-aged or older. Quality of sleep is a major area of concern for older adults with about 50% reporting one or more symptoms associated with insomnia.

During this study, researcher followed 23 adults described as “sedentary”, almost all women older than 55 who had histories of difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep as well as degraded daytime functions.

The participants in the study were divided at random into two separate groups. One group followed a program of exercising twice daily for 20 minutes four times a week while the second group performed a single daily workout of 30 to 40 minutes four times weekly. In both groups participants were encouraged to a level of 75% of their individual maximum heart rate on a minimum of two activities such as a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Both groups followed their respective programs for a 16 week period.

At the same time the control group participants did no physical exercise but did stimulate themselves mentally by engaging in both educational and recreational activities such as cooking classes or lectures 3 to 5 times weekly for about 45 minutes. This also continued for a 16 week period.

The results of the study, researchers say, showed that the two groups that exercised physically during the 16 week period had much improved quality of sleep and also reported less sleepiness in the daytime as well as more vitality and much fewer depressive symptoms.

This study is very important if for no other reason than it shows that drug free treatment of some sleep disorders is possible and much preferable to keeping the medicine cabinet stocked with sleeping pills. While medication may be effective, drug-free treatment is much more preferable since it does away with the problems of becoming drug dependent or risking negative reactions between sleep medications and other drugs someone might be taking.

The study results have promise for a huge proportion of the older population who has problems sleeping. It has long been recognized that insomnia increases as we age and around middle age our sleeping patterns begin to change drastically. If this group can be successfully treated without drugs it is a huge plus for their overall health and wellbeing.

Of course there are additional benefits to the exercise program including weight loss, mental attitude, and cardiovascular health.