The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review

Abstract

A significant body of research has investigated the effects of physical activity on sleep, yet this research has not been systematically aggregated in over a decade. As a result, the magnitude and moderators of these effects are unclear. This meta-analytical review examines the effects of acute and regular exercise on sleep, incorporating a range of outcome and moderator variables. PubMed and PsycINFO were used to identify 66 studies for inclusion in the analysis that were published through May 2013. Analyses reveal that acute exercise has small beneficial effects on total sleep time, sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, stage 1 sleep, and slow wave sleep, a moderate beneficial effect on wake time after sleep onset, and a small effect on rapid eye movement sleep. Regular exercise has small beneficial effects on total sleep time and sleep efficiency, small-to-medium beneficial effects on sleep onset latency, and moderate beneficial effects on sleep quality. Effects were moderated by sex, age, baseline physical activity level of participants, as well as exercise type, time of day, duration, and adherence. Significant moderation was not found for exercise intensity, aerobic/anaerobic classification, or publication date. Results were discussed with regards to future avenues of research and clinical application to the treatment of insomnia.

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Conflict of interest

M. Alexandra Kredlow, Michelle C. Capozzoli, Bridget A. Hearon and Amanda W. Calkins declare that they have no conflicts of interest. In the past 2 years, Michael W. Otto has served as a paid consultant for MicroTransponder Inc., Concert Pharmaceuticals, and ProPhase; provided expert consensus opinion for Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, received royalty support for use of the SIGH-A from ProPhase, and received book royalties from Oxford University Press, Routledge, and Springer.

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Kredlow, M.A., Capozzoli, M.C., Hearon, B.A. et al. The effects of physical activity on sleep: a meta-analytic review. J Behav Med 38, 427–449 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-015-9617-6

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Keywords

  • Sleep
  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep quality