Want to Sleep Better? Try Exercising More, Doctor Says

By: Cristina Mestre

The National Sleep Foundation‘s 2013 poll released this week found a compelling association between exercise and getting a good night’s sleep. 

Christopher Kline, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, was part of a five-member task force charged with coming up with the poll questions, interpreting the results and evaluating the findings. � 


The 2013 Sleep in America® annual poll interviewed 1,000 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 23 and 60, and found that:

  • Self-described exercisers reported better sleep than self-described non-exercisers even though they say they sleep the same amount each night (6 hours and 51 minutes on average during the week).� 


  • Vigorous, moderate and light exercisers are significantly more likely to say “I had a good night’s sleep” every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers (67 percent to 56 percent vs. 39 percent). 


  • Vigorous exercisers are the least likely to report sleep problems. 


  • More than three-fourths of exercisers (76 percent to 83 percent) say their sleep quality was very good or fairly good in the past two weeks, compared to slightly more than one-half of non-exercisers (56 percent). 


  • Non-exercisers tend to be more excessively sleepy than exercisers. 


  • Approximately six of ten non-exercisers say they rarely or never have a good night’s sleep on weeknights. 


  • One in seven non-exercisers report having trouble staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity at least once per week in the past two weeks. 


  • In exercisers, the risk of sleep apnea (a medical condition where people stop breathing during sleep and that increases the risk for heart disease and stroke) is half that of non-exercisers. 


  • Contrary to common perception, the poll found that the time of day you exercise doesn’t affect your sleep patterns. 


Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can make people less inclined to exercise.  No exercise and not enough sleep can turn into a vicious cycle, says Dr. Kline. 


So, what can you do to start sleeping better? Dr. Kline says making small changes, such as incorporating a short 10-minute walk into your day, can make a huge difference.  Although vigorous exercise is best, even light exercise is better than nothing.