Moderate and intense physical activity promotes a good night’s sleep

Overview: Physical activity improves sleep quality, especially for women, a new study reports.

Source: Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

Sufficient, good quality sleep is essential for human physical and emotional well-being.

For example, good quality sleep helps improve the outcomes of several diseases, including cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, mental illness and dementia. On the other hand, sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and excessive sleepiness can lead to serious health problems and are quite common all over the world.

In the US, 50-70 million adults suffer from sleep disorders, mainly insomnia. Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of 17 studies suggested that in China, insomnia is present in 15% of the population. To better understand such conditions, it is important to study the factors that promote good quality sleep.

Previous studies have shown that a good lifestyle, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, is beneficial for a good night’s sleep. However, a systematic comprehensive study is lacking in this area of ​​research.

To that end, a team of researchers from Japan, Canada and Taiwan, led by Associate Professor Javad Koohsari of the School of Knowledge Science at the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST), who is also an adjunct researcher in the Faculty of Sport Sciences at Waseda University, investigated the interrelationship between sedentary behavior, physical activity and sleep quality in a sample of middle-aged Japanese population.

The research group, consisting of Professor Yukari Nagai, also from JAIST; Professor Akitomo Yasunaga of Bunka Gakuen University; University of Tsukuba Associate Professor Ai Shibata; Professor Yung Liao of National Taiwan Normal University; Associate Professor Gavin R. McCormack of the University of Calgary, and Professor Koichiro Oka and Professor Kaori Ishii of Waseda University, based their study on Japanese adults between the ages of 40 and 64 – a crucial time frame that often marks the onset of various health problems.

Their work was recently published in Scientific Reports.

The researchers used an isotemporal substitution approach, which estimates the effect of replacing one activity type with another over the same amount of time.

Dr. Says Koohsari, “We replaced 60 minutes of sedentary behavior or light physical activity with moderate to vigorous physical activity in the participants’ schedules.”

This shows a sleeping woman
Previous studies have shown that a good lifestyle, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, is beneficial for a good night’s sleep. The image is in the public domain

An accelerometer tracked the participants’ level of physical activity for seven consecutive days. A questionnaire was then used to assess the participants’ sleep and rest quality.

Indeed, replacing sedentary behavior with moderate to intense exercise improved sleep quality. Interestingly, this association was seen to be gender-based and only found in females. This is consistent with reports that have shed light on gender-based differences in sleep disturbances. However, more studies are needed to understand why these gender-related differences occur.

In summary, this study adds to the existing pool of studies providing empirical evidence of the importance of exercise in promoting good quality sleep. Hopefully, these studies will serve as a useful platform for further research into the prevention of sleep-related disorders. We certainly now have enough motivation to regularize our training schedules!


Dr. Gavin R. McCormack is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Foundations Scheme Grant (FDN-154331).

prof. Koichiro Oka is supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 20H04113) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

About this exercise and sleep research news

Writer: Mohammad Javad Koohsari
Source: Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Contact: Mohammad Javad Koohsari – Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original research: Open access.
“Sedentary Behavior and Sleep Quality” by Mohammad Javad Koohsari et al. Scientific Reports

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Sedentary behavior and sleep quality

High-quality sleep is an important factor in maintaining health and improving well-being. Previous evidence has shown the positive associations between increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behavior (SB) with sleep quality.

The substitutive relationships between SB, light-intensity physical activity (LPA), and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) should be considered when examining how a particular behavior may affect sleep quality.

To our knowledge, no studies have examined these replacement relationships in adulthood.

Using an isotemporal substitution approach, this study examined the associations of replacing sedentary time with physical activity on sleep quality measures in a sample of middle-aged adults in Japan. Data was used from 683 adults aged 40-64 living in Japan. Mean daily time spent in SB, LPA and MVPA was objectively assessed by accelerometers.

Two self-reported measures of sleep quality were obtained using questionnaires, including rest through sleep and sleep quality. Multivariable linear regression models were used to assess the associations of SB, LPA and MVPA with the sleep quality measures stratified by gender.

We found that each unit of 60 minutes of SB or LPA replaced by MVPA was favorably associated with rest through sleep in women (b= 0.16, 95% CI 0.07, 0.28, p< 0.001; b= 0.18, 95% CI 0.07, 0.32, p< 0.05, respectively). There were no significant associations between SB, LPA, and MVPA with sleep measures in men in all three models.

These findings indicate that higher MVPA is positively associated with sleep quality in middle-aged women.

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