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Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep

Article / Review by on November 22, 2011 – 6:58 pmNo Comments

 Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep

Can regular exercise improve your quality of sleep?

CORVALLIS, Ore. – People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, a new study concludes.

A nationally representative sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week, which is the national guideline, provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality. People also said they felt less sleepy during the day, compared to those with less physical activity.

The study, out in the December issue of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, lends more evidence to mounting research showing the importance of exercise to a number of health factors. Among adults in the United States, about 35 to 40 percent of the population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.

“We were using the physical activity guidelines set forth for cardiovascular health, but it appears that those guidelines might have a spillover effect to other areas of health,” said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University and one of the study’s authors.

“Increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep.”

After controlling for age, BMI (Body Mass Index), health status, smoking status, and depression, the relative risk of often feeling overly sleepy during the day compared to never feeling overly sleepy during the day decreased by 65 percent for participants meeting physical activity guidelines.

Similar results were also found for having leg cramps while sleeping (68 percent less likely) and having difficulty concentrating when tired (45 percent decrease).

Paul Loprinzi, an assistant professor at Bellarmine University is lead author of the study, which was conducted while he was a doctoral student in Cardinal’s lab at OSU. He said it is the first study to examine the relationship between accelerometer-measured physical activity and sleep while utilizing a nationally representative sample of adults of all ages.

‘Our findings demonstrate a link between regular physical activity and perceptions of sleepiness during the day, which suggests that participation in physical activity on a regular basis may positively influence an individual’s productivity at work, or in the case of a student, influence their ability to pay attention in class,” he said.

Cardinal said past studies linking physical activity and sleep used only self-reports of exercise. The danger with this is that many people tend to overestimate the amount of activity they do, he said.

He added that the take-away for consumers is to remember that exercise has a number of health benefits, and that can include helping feel alert and awake.

“Physical activity may not just be good for the waistline and heart, but it also can help you sleep,” Cardinal said. “There are trade-offs. It may be easier when you are tired to skip the workout and go to sleep, but it may be beneficial for your long-term health to make the hard decision and get your exercise.”

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Photo by Tulane Public Relations

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> About Oregon State University, OSU, Oregon State University (OSU)

Founded in 1868, Oregon State University is a Land Grant campus – one of the “people’s colleges,” as Abraham Lincoln famously described them — and over the past 40 years has added Sea Grant, Space Grant and Sun Grant designations. Ivy League stalwart Cornell is the only other U.S. university so recognized.

OSU is the only Oregon institution to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top ranking for research universities, a recognition of the depth and quality of OSU’s graduate education and research programs, and the Carnegie Foundation’s “Community Engagement” designation, which speaks to the depth and breadth of the university’s service to its many communities. OSU is Oregon’s largest non-health sciences university, earning most of the federal research dollars awarded to Oregon colleges and universities and bringing in more than $275 million in fiscal year 2010 in scientific grants and contracts.

Through its centers, institutes, Extension offices and Experiment Stations, OSU has a presence in every one of Oregon’s 36 counties, including its main campus in Corvallis, the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center in Newport, OSU Cascades in Bend and multiple locations in Portland, including the OSU Portland Center.

OSU’s academic programs are increasingly recognized as among the best in the nation. Conservation biology, agricultural sciences, nuclear engineering, forestry, fisheries and wildlife management, community health, pharmacy and zoology are ranked in the nation’s top 10 for their respective disciplines. They are among the 81 undergraduate and 100 graduate degree programs offered through OSU’s 12 colleges.

Those programs enroll nearly 24,000 students from every county in Oregon, every state in the country and more than 90 nations. OSU also attracts a greater share of high-achieving students from Oregon than any other institution, particularly from the Portland Metro area.

OSU’s main 400-acre campus in Corvallis includes a Historic District, making OSU one of only a handful of U.S. university campuses to be so included on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes 83 buildings and outdoor spaces, all arranged around a campus plan created in 1909 by famed architect John C. Olmsted of the Boston-based Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. The Olmsted’s are known for their design of such iconic outdoor spaces as New York’s Central Park and Yosemite National Park.

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*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Oregon State University

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