Exercise Might Counteract Harm Done by Poor Sleep

If you have ever lost a night of sleep, you know that in the morning, you feel rough, but it gets easier as you get up and get moving. It might be that having some momentum helps your brain and body wake up. But, new research shows it might be more than that.

A study that wanted to examine the link between sleep and physical activity followed more than 380,000 middle-aged people for around 15 years. They used questionnaires, physicals and interviews to learn about people’s health, fitness levels and sleep routines. The researchers categorized people by how much they exercised.

They also broke down people’s sleep into five components to give them a score out of five. A four or above was healthy, two to three was intermediate and a zero or one was rated as poor. The five characteristics were what time of the day they were most alert, how long they slept, if they suffered from insomnia, if they were frequently drowsy and if they snored. Because of these combinations, the duration of the study and the massive number of participants, they actually have dozens of different types of people they could look at and compare.

They found that people who slept poorly and didn’t exercise were the most likely to die in the 15-year study. They were 57 percent more likely to die than people who slept well and exercised. However, they found that people who suffered from sleep problems but exercised a medium amount seemed to suffer the same death rate as people who slept and exercised the same amount, suggesting that exercise may counteract poor sleep. That boost you feel when you get moving after a lousy night’s sleep might not be psychological!

We know that exercising is easier when you’re well-rested. And sleeping is easier when you have had a full day and get some exercise, but it’s interesting to see them linked like this. The researchers want to dig into the link more. “As emerging evidence supports a synergistic effect of sleep and physical activity on health outcomes, future trials concurrently targeting both behaviors are warranted,” they wrote.

We would be interested in seeing those results. While you cannot draw firm conclusions from this, you can take away the message that exercise boosts your health. As we know that exercise helps you get a good night’s sleep, try to add more steps to your day. If this research proves to be accurate, you can help counteract poor sleep. If it’s incorrect, you might help yourself work toward healthier sleep patterns with better fitness.

Banner image: Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash
July 12, 2021
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