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Sleep Med Rev. 2000 Aug;4(4):387-402.

Exercise and sleep.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital Applied and Interventional Research Division, Canada


This paper reviews the literature on the association between exercise and sleep. The epidemiological and experimental evidence for whether or not acute and chronic exercise promote sleep is discussed, as well as moderating factors and agendas for future directions of study. The expectation that exercise will benefit sleep can partly be attributed to traditional hypotheses that sleep serves energy conservation, body restoration or thermoregulatory functions, all of which have guided much of the research in this field. Exercise is a complex activity that can be beneficial to general well-being but may also stress the body. Differences in the exercise protocols studied (e.g. aerobic or anaerobic, intensity, duration) and interactions between individual characteristics (e.g. fitness, age and gender) cloud the current experimental evidence supporting a sleep-enhancing effect of exercise. In addition, the tendency to study changes in small groups of good sleepers may also underestimate the efficacy of exercise for promoting sleep. Athough only moderate effect sizes have been noted, meta-analytical techniques have shown that exercise increased total sleep time and delayed REM sleep onset (10 min), increased slow-wave sleep (SWS) and reduced REM sleep (2-5 min). The sleep-promoting efficacy of exercise in normal and clinical populations has yet to be established empirically.

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