Insomnia is characterized by difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, waking-up too early and daytime function impairment. Its prevalence ranges from 10% to 40%, and various medications are used to treat insomnia. However, side effects are common. Non-pharmacological interventions with some efficacy may be useful, and include sleep hygiene advice (e.g., set a regular bedtime, limit alcohol and caffeine, and increase daylight exposure), cognitive–behavioral therapy and exercise. The British Journal of Sport Medicine recently published a systematic review aimed to determine whether aerobic- or resistance-training program improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems.
The review confirmed that exercise improves subjective sleep quality. The magnitude of the effect compared with that of hypnotic pharmacotherapy is difficult to gauge. However, tailored exercise may be a safe and effective alternative to such medications. This is particularly important given the side-effect profiles of hypnotic and sedative medications in older adults. With documented efficacy, one should consider exercise as an alternative or adjunctive treatment for older adults with poor sleep quality.
Øivind Rognmo, researcher with CERG