Aerobic Exercise Could Help Obese Men With Chronic Insomnia, Study Finds

The most important benefit of exercise was the improved ability of the men to fall asleep, the study found.

A study from Finland has found that overweight and obese men fall asleep more easily and more quickly after engaging in a 6-month aerobic exercise program. The findings were published recently in the journal Sleep Medicine.1

Aerobic exercise increases the need for sleep in order for muscles, tendons, and organs related respiration and blood flow to recover, according to Christopher E. Kline, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Sleep and Chronobiology Center, who spoke with the US Psychiatric Congress Network.

Exercise may help dampen the mental and physical “hyperarousal” that seems to be a common feature in insomnia, with feelings of a persistently elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, and a sense that one cannot “turn off” the brain, Kline said.

According to the abstract, the study sample included 45 men, most of who were overweight or obese, aged 30-65 and with a minimum of 3 months experiencing symptoms of insomnia. Half of the study participants were randomly selected to participate in 6 months of aerobic exercise sessions, from 1 to 5 sessions per week for a duration of 30-60 minutes with a trainer. The number and intensity of the sessions depended on the fitness level of the participants. The control group maintained their regular behaviors.

Researchers monitored the study participants’ progress with bed sensors, personal diaries, questionnaires, and body measurements. They discovered that the men who participated in the exercise sessions fell asleep quicker, had less difficulty falling asleep, woke up in the middle of the night less, and experienced a better quality of sleep.

The most important benefit of exercise, the study found, was the improved ability of the men to fall asleep. But Kline told the Psych Congress Network that the best option for insomnia still appears to be behavioral sleep therapy.

Reference

Tan X, Alen M, Wiklund P, Cheng S. Effects of aerobic exercise on home-based sleep among overweight and obese men with chronic insomnia symptoms: a randomized controlled trial [published online March 7, 2016]. Sleep Med 2016; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2016.02.010