Hours of better sleep, a coveted luxury in law enforcement, can be yours for just 150 minutes a week, according to a new health sciences study. Not only will you snooze “significantly better,” but you’ll feel more alert during your waking hours, an important survival benefit.
Researchers from Bellarmine University and Oregon State University objectively examined the association between physical activity and sleep in a representative sample of more than 3,000 U.S. adults, ranging in age from 18 to 85. Each participant wore an electronic movement-measuring device on the right hip for seven days, and then was questioned about sleep quality during a personal interview.
Analysis of the findings shows that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week — just 2 ½ hours, the national guideline — produced a variety of important sleep benefits. The risk of feeling “overly sleepy” during the day decreased by 65 percent. Experiencing leg cramps while sleeping was nearly 70 percent less likely. Difficulty concentrating when tired showed a 45 percent decrease. Also, those who were more active tended to fall asleep quicker.
Overall, the National Sleep Foundation reported, consistent exercise at the recommended level “provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality,” decreasing wakeful sleepiness and heightening the ability to “pay attention.”
The Foundation estimates that among U.S. adults, 35 percent to 40 percent have problems falling asleep and combating drowsiness when awake — circumstances many cops know all too well. Increasingly, the researchers report, the scientific evidence is pointing to regular physical activity as “a non-pharmaceutical alternative” for overcoming many sleep problems.
Study co-author Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at OSU, says, “It may be easier when you’re tired to skip working out and go to sleep, but it may be beneficial for your long-term health to make the hard decision and get your exercise.” Not only is your sleep likely to improve, but the physical activity will be good for your waistline and heart as well.