Aerobic Exercise Improves Chronic Insomnia

Regular aerobic exercise improves the quality of sleep, mood and vitality, according to a small but significant study from Northwestern Medicine.

The study examined the effects of aerobic exercise on middle-age and older adults with a diagnosis of insomnia. The results achieved resulted in more dramatic improvement than pharmacological intervention, which is good news as the taking of few drugs allows for less potential negative interactions with medications that a person may already be taking for other health conditions.

“By improving a person’s sleep, you can improve their physical and mental health,” said Phyllis Zee, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Medicine. “Sleep is a barometer of health, like someone’s temperature. It should be the fifth vital sign. 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.”

Exercise improved the participants’ self-reported sleep quality, elevating them from a diagnosis of poor sleeper to good sleeper. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality and less daytime sleepiness. “Exercise is good for metabolism, weight management and cardiovascular health and now it’s good for sleep,” Zee said.