Phyllis Zee, MD, senior author and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Medicine, says the study is important because it is relevant to “a huge proportion of the population.”
She says insomnia increases with age. Around mid-life, sleep begins to change dramatically, she says.
“It is essential that we identify behavioral ways to improve sleep,” Zee says. “Now we have promising results showing aerobic exercise is a simple strategy to help people sleep better and feel more vigorous.”
Like nutrition and exercise, sleep is an essential ingredient of a healthy lifestyle, says Zee, also a professor of neurology, neurobiology, and physiology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
Sleep Helps Mental Health, Too
“By improving a person’s sleep, you can improve their physical and mental health,” she says. “Sleep is a barometer of health, like someone’s temperature. If a person says he or she isn’t sleeping well, we know they are more likely to be in poor health, with problems managing their hypertension or diabetes.”
The exercise and sedentary groups were told that good sleep hygiene can be improved by sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet room; going to bed at the same time every night; and not staying in bed too long if you can’t fall asleep.
“The increase in self-reported sleep duration by 1.25 hours in the exercise plus sleep hygiene education group is higher than what has been reported for other non-pharmacological interventions for insomnia,” the authors write.
The study is published in the October issue of the journal Sleep Medicine.