Insufficient or low-quality sleep may be more than an annoyance. It can be a major health concern meriting a visit to your general practitioner or a sleep specialist. Difficulty sleeping that impairs activities of daily living and lasts greater than three months meets the clinical definition of insomnia. Insomnia can be a disorder or a symptom. As a symptom, it has many possible causes. One of the more prevalent causes is obstructive sleep apnea, which is a major reason for snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) means an obstructive episode resulting in respiratory effort and at least a 30% decrease in airflow for 10 seconds or greater resulting in oxygen desaturation in the blood of 4% or greater.

The problems from OSA are associated with a host of negative health, social, and occupational consequences, some of which include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Reduced work productivity
  • Reduced concentration
  • Social isolation and loneliness

Exercise has long been associated with better sleep. [1] Despite surprisingly little experimental research involving patients with significant sleep disturbance or sleep disorders, the available evidence suggests that exercise holds promise as a nonpharmacologic therapy for adults with poor or disordered sleep. [2]

Exercise seems to improve sleep quality and sleep continuity. Even in the case of OSA, exercise can reduce the symptoms. If chronic problems with sleep are an issue, please consider getting evaluated. Remember that exercise is good medicine.

[1] Youngstedt SD, Kline CE. Epidemiology of exercise and sleep. Sleep Biol Rhythms. 2006; 4:215–221.

[2] Buman MP, King AC. Exercise as a treatment to enhance sleep. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2010; 4:500–514.