National Sleep Foundation Poll Finds Exercise Key to Good Sleep: Page 2 of 6

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March 4, 2013

up during the night and nearly one-fourth (24%) had difficulty falling asleep every night or almost every night.

“Poor sleep might lead to negative health partly because it makes people less inclined to exercise,” says Shawn Youngstedt, PhD, poll task force member. “More than one half (57%) of the total sample reported that their activity level will be less than usual after a night of poor sleep. Not exercising and not sleeping becomes a vicious cycle.”

Non-exercisers are the sleepiest and have the highest risk for sleep apnea
Non-exercisers tend toward being more excessively sleepy than exercisers. Nearly one-fourth of non-exercisers (24%) qualify as “sleepy” using a standard excessive sleepiness clinical screening measure. This sleepiness level occurs about twice as often than for exercisers (12-15%). Also, about six in ten of non-exercisers (61%) say they rarely or never have a good night’s sleep on work nights. 

Sleepiness clearly interferes with many non-exercisers’ safety and quality of life. One in seven non-exercisers (14%) report having trouble staying awake while driving, eating or engaging in social activity at least once a week in the past two weeks, almost three times the rate of those who exercise (4-6%).

“Sometimes we might feel tired, and that's normal,” says Matthew Buman, PhD, poll task force member, “but if fatigue is your normal state, it warrants a conversation with your doctor. It could be a red flag that something is wrong with your health.”

Indeed, non-exercisers have more symptoms of sleep apnea . Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition in which a person stops breathing during sleep. Its symptoms often include tiredness, snoring, and high blood pressure. It also increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. More than four in ten non-exercisers (44%) exhibit a moderate risk of sleep apnea, compared to between one in four and one in five of light exercisers (26%), moderate exercisers (22%) and vigorous exercisers (19%). 

“The poll data suggest that the risk of sleep apnea in exercisers is half that of non-exercisers,” says Christopher Kline, PhD, poll task force member. “People with sleep apnea are often overweight.