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PLoS One. 2019 Jul 5;14(7):e0218870. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218870. eCollection 2019.

Physical activity and sleep problems in homeless adults.

Author information

Department of Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences, College of Education, The University of Houston, Houston, Texas, United States of America.
HEALTH Research Institute, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, United States of America.
School of Public Health, The University of Texas Health Science Center, Dallas, Texas, United States of America.
Department of Health Disparities Research, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, United States of America.



For the estimated 554,000 homeless individuals on any given night in the United States, obtaining quality sleep is often challenging. This group is known to have multiple health disparities, potentially affected by sleep problems; therefore, identifying lifestyle factors-such as physical activity-that are associated with improving both quality and quantity of sleep has important implications for public health. Here, we examine associations of physical activity with subjective sleep problems within a large sample of homeless adults.


Participants were homeless adults recruited from Dallas and Oklahoma (N = 747; 66.1% men, Mage = 43.7±12.1). Participants self-reported insufficient sleep (number of days without sufficient rest/sleep in the last month; categorized as 0, 1-13, 14-29, or ≥30 days), sleep duration (over average 24 hours; categorized as ≤6 [short sleeper], 7-9 [optimal sleeper], or ≥10 hours [long sleeper]), and unintentional daytime sleep (number of days with unintentional sleep in the last month; categorized as 0 vs ≥30 days). Physical activity was assessed subjectively using the BRFSS Physical Activity Questionnaire. Regression analyses were performed to examine the associations between physical activity and sleep problems, controlling for age, sex, race, education, body mass, months homeless, at-risk drinking, self-rated health, serious mental illness, smoking status, and recruitment city.


Failure to meet/exceed physical activity guidelines was associated with higher likelihood of being a long sleeper (OR = 2.64, 95% CI: 1.46, 4.78) but a lower likelihood of having ≥30 days of insufficient rest/sleep (OR = 0.52, 95% CI: 0.29, 0.93).


Findings suggest that physical activity promotion may hold promise for addressing the problem of too much sleep, but not other manifestations of sleep problems among this vulnerable group.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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