A little extra exercise lifts you out of sleep poverty
According to a forgotten study from the last century, people can increase their daily amount of sleep if they exercise a little more.
It's the same with sleep as it is with vitamin D. As with vitamin D, people need a certain amount of sleep to function optimally, but tens of percent of the population don't get that amount. One of the aspects of the sleep deprivation pandemic is that a large group of people are spending an acceptable number of hours in bed, yet not getting enough hours of sleep.
As early as the early 1990s, researchers at Stanford University Medical School in the US reported that 1 in 3 Americans is getting poor or insufficient sleep. [Soc Sci Med. 1992 Jan;34(1):49-55.]
The same researchers published an experimental study in JAMA in 1997, in which 43 over-50s participated as test subjects. The subjects were reasonably healthy, had a sedentary lifestyle and slept poorly.
The researchers got half of the subjects to exercise 4 times a week for 16 weeks. This meant that the subjects cycled or walked for 30-40 minutes at an intensity of 60-75 percent of their maximum heart rate. For the test subjects, this meant that they could no longer carry on a conversation.
The other half of the subjects did not exercise.
Before and after the 16 weeks, the subjects in the experimental group reported that when they went to bed, they only needed half the usual time to fall asleep. Their Sleep Onset Latency decreased by 12 minutes. The first figure below makes this clear.
The total number of minutes of sleep of the subjects in the experimental group increased by 42 minutes per day.
"We conclude that older adults with moderate sleep complaints can benefit from initiating a regular moderate-intensity endurance exercise program in terms of improvements in rated sleep quality", write the researchers.
JAMA. 1997 Jan 1;277(1):32-7.
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