Doing this simple thing could lead to better sleep

Doing this simple thing could lead to better sleep

For some of us, getting a good night’s sleep is only a dream. Tossing and turning, staring at the clock for hours or waking up well before the alarm is often how we spend our sleepless nights.

But now, researchers are suggesting that simply taking a walk during the day may improve our sleep at night.

A recent study published in the journal Sleep Health looked at how low-impact physical activity affected sleep. Researchers recruited 59 adults who worked full time and were concerned they didn’t have time for physical activity. For one month, the participants logged their daily steps and the number of minutes they spent moving with a fitness tracker device. Even light activity, including doing housework, was recorded. Participants self-reported the quality and duration of their sleep each day, and before and after the four-week period.

In analyzing the data, the researchers discovered there was a direct and consistent correlation between activity and sleep. Overall, during the month, the more steps people – especially women – had, the higher their sleep quality. Likewise, the more time a person spent moving, the better their sleep.

The results also suggested low-impact physical activity can help. On days that participants were more active than their average daily level, both men and women reported better sleep quality and duration.

“What’s encouraging to note is the activity that led to higher sleep quality is very doable for most people,” Dr. Amit Gupta, a family medicine physician and sleep specialist at Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, Wis., says. “The participants in this study averaged about 7,000 steps per day, which is about three miles of walking.”

And steps can really add up during the day by the simple act of walking from your car into work or the store, doing laundry, cleaning the house or doing yardwork.

“Try parking farther away from entrances and take the stairs instead of the elevator to get even more steps in,” Dr. Gupta says.

Do you have trouble sleeping and think you might have sleep apnea? Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression and more. Take this short quiz to help understand your symptoms and risk factors. 

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Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.