New study finds regular exercise linked to reduced insomnia


Struggling with a sleepless night? Engaging in physical activity might be just the remedy you need, suggests a recent study.

Dr. Erla Björnsdóttir, a sleep expert and researcher at Reykjavik University, led the study, which was published in the journal BMJ Open. The research analyzed data from over 4,300 individuals aged 39 to 67 across nine European countries over a decade.

According to the findings, individuals who maintained consistent physical activity were 55% more likely to enjoy normal sleep patterns—defined as 6 to 9 hours per night—while those who increased their activity levels during the study period were 21% more likely to experience normal sleep, after accounting for factors like age, sex, BMI, and smoking history.

Dr. David Neubauer, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, notes that while these results align with existing research on the benefits of exercise for sleep, this study emphasizes the importance of sustained activity over time.

Dr. Shalini Paruthi, from St. Luke’s Hospital, highlights the potential of exercise as a complementary approach to managing insomnia alongside medication and therapy.

While exercise can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and regulate the body’s internal clock—all factors that improve sleep quality—Neubauer cautions that this study alone does not prove exercise as a cure for insomnia, as it lacks a baseline measurement of sleep quality before participants began exercising.

Paruthi stresses the individual variability in response to exercise, with some experiencing significant improvements, while others may see more moderate benefits or none at all.

Cognitive behavioral therapy remains the gold standard for treating insomnia, particularly for those with persistent sleep issues, according to Paruthi.

Starting an exercise routine doesn’t require extreme measures—moderate activities like walking or yoga can yield significant sleep benefits, says Björnsdóttir.

Paruthi encourages even small steps toward physical activity, emphasizing that any amount of movement is beneficial, even if it’s just a short walk.

Neubauer suggests combining outdoor activity with exercise to maximize benefits, as exposure to natural light and physical activity both support a healthy circadian rhythm, promoting better sleep at night and increased alertness during the day.

In summary, incorporating regular physical activity, even in small doses, can contribute to improved sleep quality and overall well-being.


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