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30-10-2011 | Psychology | Article

Aerobic exercise benefits patients with chronic primary insomnia


Free abstract

MedWire News: Long-term moderate aerobic exercise improves sleep, mood, and quality of life (QoL) in patients with chronic primary insomnia (CPI), research shows.

Marco Túlio de Mello (Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil) and colleagues explain that "CPI is a sleep disorder characterized by long-term difficulties with initiating and maintaining sleep, waking up too early, non-restorative sleep, and daytime impairment, including fatigue, poor mood, impaired concentration, and poor quality of life."

They add: "Drug therapy is the most commonly prescribed treatment for insomnia. However, sleep medications may cause side effects and are not recommended for long-term use."

To investigate the long-term effects of aerobic exercise on sleep, mood, and QoL in CPI patients, and to investigate whether morning or afternoon exercise is best, the team studied 19 sedentary patients with the sleep disorder who were aged an average of 45 years.

All of the participants were assigned to a 6-month aerobic exercise program, with 10 assigned to morning and nine to late afternoon exercise on a treadmill for 50 minutes, 3 days per week.

Before and after completing the exercise program, the patients underwent polysomnography and completed the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and the Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), which indicates QoL. They also kept sleep diaries during the 6-month period.

Combining data from polysomnography tests in both groups, the researchers found that participants experienced a significant decrease in sleep onset latency, from 17.1 min to 8.7 min, and wake time after sleep onset, from 63.2 min to 40.1 min, over the course of the study period.

Data from sleep diaries also revealed significant increases in sleep quality, from 41.5% to 59.4%, and feelings of being rested in the morning, from 50.8% to 65.1%.

Some aspects of QoL improved over the study period, including SF-36 scores for social functioning, from 75.0 to 89.6, general health perception, from 81.4 to 89.5, and role limitations due to emotional health problems, from 70.1 to 88.9. In addition, patients experienced reductions in POMS scores for tension-anxiety

(from 7.2 to 3.5), depression (from 5.9 to 3.3), and total mood disturbance (from 9.2 to -1.7).

Overall, patients assigned to morning exercise and those assigned to late afternoon exercise experienced similar improvements in these measures, the team notes.

Writing in the journal Sleep Medicine, the researchers conclude: "The results suggest that long-term moderate aerobic exercise, performed in the morning or late afternoon, improves sleep (objective and subjective), mood, and quality of life in patients with CPI.

They add that the findings indicate that "physical exercise may be a good non-pharmacological treatment alternative for patients with chronic primary insomnia."

By Mark Cowen

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