A team of researchers from the Pennsylvania State University demonstrated that being more physically active or more sedentary than usual can impact the number of hours a person sleeps at night.
A week-long longitudinal study led the researchers to conclude that for every extra hour spent exercising leads to falling asleep 18 minutes early, sleeping 10 minutes longer, and the sleep maintenance efficiency increased by 1% for that night. “Adolescence is a critical period to obtain adequate sleep, as sleep can affect cognitive and classroom performance, stress, and eating behaviors. Our research suggests that encouraging adolescents to spend more time exercising during the day may help their sleep health later that night.” Co-investigator, and data scientist at Penn State, Lindsay Master notes.
Furthermore, the researchers found that too much time spent being physically inactive, or more so than usual, can lead to sleep disturbances. The results showed that participants who spent more time sitting or being sedentary than usual during the day, fell asleep late and woke up later, however the overall duration of their sleep was short. According to Prof. Orfeu Buxton, professor of bio-behavioral health at Penn State, the results highlight the association between exercise and sleep. “You can think of these relationships between physical activity and sleep almost like a teeter totter. When you’re getting more steps, essentially, your sleep begins earlier, expands in duration, and is more efficient. Whereas if you’re spending more time sedentary, it’s like sitting on your sleep health: sleep length and quality goes down.”
In addition to establishing an association between physical activity and sleep patterns later that night, the researchers also demonstrated how it affects activity the following day. Participants who woke up later the next day tended to be less enthusiastic about exercising that day, and were more inclined to sedentary behaviour. The authors encourage being more physically active on a daily basis t ensure long-term health benefits.