More than 50 percent of middle aged and older adults complain of chronic insomnia symptoms and it’s been found that these adults may gain relief from their insomnia by participating in aerobic exercise. A study, completed by the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, is the first to examine the effects of aerobics on middle aged and older adults who have received a diagnosis of insomnia. The exercise trial resulted in the most marked improvement in patients who reported the overall quality of their sleep, including duration.

Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of Sleep Disorders at Northwestern Memorial hospital wrote, “This is relevant to a huge portion of the population because insomnia increases with age.” Around middle age, your sleep patterns change dramatically so it’s essential for individuals who find ways to address these changes so they get quality sleep. The result of the aerobic exercise study has shown promising results as a simple strategy to help people sleep better.

The study included 23 sedentary adults, primarily women, 55 and older who had difficulty falling sleep and/or staying asleep and suffered impaired daytime functioning. Women have the highest prevalence of insomnia. After a conditioning period, the aerobic physical activity group exercised for two 20-minute sessions four times per week or one 30-to-40-minute session four times per week, both for 16 weeks. Participants worked at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate on at least two activities including walking or using a stationary bicycle or treadmill.

The aerobic exercise program helped improve the participants’ self-reported sleep quality, elevating them from a diagnosis of poor sleeper to good sleeper. They also reported fewer depressive symptoms, more vitality and less daytime sleepiness. “By improving a person’s sleep, you can improve their physical and mental health,” Zee said. “Sleep is a barometer of health, like someone’s temperature. It should be the fifth vital sign. If a person says he or she isn’t sleeping well, we know they are more likely to be in poor health with problems managing their hypertension or diabetes.”

Information courtesy National Sleep Foundation.

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900;