1. This systematic review found that all studies reported an association between physical activity and improved sleep quality and reduced severity of sleep disorders.
2. However, physical activity duration, time, and frequency were important. High-intensity physical activity for more than 90 minutes was associated with worse sleep quality.
Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)
Sleep disorders and disruptions in sleep quality are highly prevalent and can negatively impact quality of life. Physical activity is associated with increased melatonin production, reduced stress, and improved mood, all of which can assist with sleep. However, the role that physical activity plays in improving sleep quality and sleep disorder outcomes is not well elucidated. Therefore, this systematic review evaluated the current literature on the association between physical activity, sleep quality, and sleep disorders.
Of 413 identified records, 23 studies were included. Studies were included if they investigated the relationship between physical activity and sleep quality or sleep disorder outcomes and were published in English within the last ten years. There were no restrictions on participant age, study setting, or health conditions. Commentaries, letters to the editor, and narrative and scoping reviews were excluded. The review was carried out according to PRISMA guidelines. The study quality was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale and the Cochrane Collaboration’s Risk of Bias tool. The primary outcome was the association between physical activity and sleep quality or sleep disorder outcomes.
The results found that all studies reported a positive association between physical activity and sleep quality and reduced sleep disorder severity. However, the duration and time of physical activity were important. For example, one study found that high-intensity physical activity for more than 90 minutes was negatively associated with sleep quality. Another study found that intense physical activity six or more times per week was associated with worsening insomnia symptoms. However, the review was limited because most studies exploring the impact of physical activity on sleep disorders looked at insomnia, while other common sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea, were not adequately explored. Nonetheless, the study demonstrated that physical activity can positively affect sleep quality and sleep disorder outcomes, depending on the intensity and duration.
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