10-year study reveals the secret to overcoming insomnia

Happy woman waking up in bed Good sleep

Regular exercise significantly improves sleep quality and reduces insomnia symptoms, with consistent physical activity providing the greatest benefits.

Regular exercise 2-3 times a week over a long period of time is associated with a lower actual risk of insomnia, as well as the ability to get the recommended 6-9 hours of shut-eye each night, suggests an international study 10- year published. in the open access journal BMJ Open.

Regular exercise is linked to better overall health, and some studies have suggested that physical activity promotes better quality sleep and may improve symptoms of chronic insomnia, the researchers note.

But it’s not entirely clear how much gender, age, weight (BMI), general fitness, general health and type of exercise contribute to this link, they add.

To explore this further, researchers assessed the frequency, duration and intensity of weekly physical activity and symptoms of insomnia, daily sleepiness and daytime sleepiness among middle-aged adults from 21 centers in nine European countries.

Study findings on physical activity

The 4399 study participants (2085 men; 2254 women) were drawn from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey.

They answered questions on frequency and duration of physical activity at baseline (ECRHS II; 1998–2002) and on physical activity, insomnia symptoms (Nordic Core Sleep Questionnaire; scale 1–5), sleep duration and daytime sleepiness ( Epworth Sleepiness Sleepiness Scale). ) 10 years later (ECRHS III; 2011-14).

Participants who reported exercising at least two or more times per week, for 1 hour/week or more, were classified as physically active.

Over the 10-year period, 37% (1601) of participants were persistently inactive; 18% (775) became physically active; 20% (881) became inactive; and 25% (1082) were continuously active.

Participants in Norway were more likely to be consistently active, while participants in Spain, followed by Estonia, were more likely to be consistently inactive.

Consistently active participants were more likely to be men, younger, and weigh slightly less. They were also less likely to be current smokers and more likely to be currently working.

After adjusting for age, sex, weight (BMI), smoking history, and study center, those who were consistently active were significantly (42%) less likely to have difficulty falling asleep, 22% less likely to likely had some symptoms of insomnia. , and 40% less likely to report 2 or 3 (37% less likely) insomnia symptoms.

Insomnia symptoms were also independently associated with age, female gender, and weight.

Regarding total hours of nighttime sleep and daytime sleepiness, after adjusting for age, sex, weight, smoking history, and study center, consistently active participants were more likely to be normal sleepers, while those who were consistently inactive were less likely to be in that category.

The effect of continuous exercise on sleep

Those who were consistently active were significantly (55%) more likely to have normal sleep and significantly less likely (29%) to be short (6 hours or less), and 52% less likely to be long, who slept (9 hours or more). And those who became active were 21% more likely to have normal sleep than those who were consistently inactive.

The researchers acknowledge that they were unable to objectively assess changes in physical activity levels between the two time points and that all elements relied on subjective assessment via questionnaire.

But still they conclude: “Our results are consistent with previous studies that have shown the beneficial effect of [physical activity] on insomnia symptoms, but the current study also shows the importance of persistence in exercise over time, because the association was lost for initially active subjects who became inactive.”

Reference: “Relation between physical activity over a 10-year period and current symptoms of insomnia, sleep duration and daytime sleepiness: a European population-based study” by Erla Bjornsdottir, Elin Helga Thorarinsdottir, Eva Lindberg, Bryndis Benediktsdottir, Karl Franklin, Debbie Jarvis, Pascal Demoly, Jennifer L Perret, Judith Garcia Aymerich, Sandra Dorado-Arenas, Joachim Heinrich, Kjell Torén, Vanessa Garcia Larsen, Rain Jögi, Thorarinn Gislason, and Christer Janson, March 1, 2024, BMJ Open.
DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-067197

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