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How exercise could be the answer to better sleep

The research team hopes these findings influence the sleep advice that doctors give their patients.

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people, bedtime and rest concept - indian man in eye mask sleeping in bed at home at night
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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Exercise could be the answer to a better night sleep, as people who work out more are less likely to need sleeping pills, a new study reveals.

But the beneficial effect of exercise is stronger for men than for women.

New research shows that 10 to 20 percent of the population suffer from serious long-term sleep problems, leading many to resort to some form of sleeping aid to get by.

However, researchers believe that exercising could be a better solution.

Dr. Linda Ernstsen, an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: “We’ve observed that people who are in better physical condition have a lower risk of taking prescription sleeping pills.”

The findings show that the fittest men had a 15 percent lower risk of needing drugs to help them sleep, while women who exercised regularly were only five per cent less likely to need sleeping drugs.

Ernstsen said: “The corresponding percentage risk for the fittest women was much lower. But women who struggle with sleep can still benefit from getting in better shape.”

The team reviewed data from Norway’s large Trøndelag Health Survey.

A total of 240,000 people from Trondheim, Norway, have taken part in the survey since it began in 1984.

Four survey rounds have been carried out to date.

The research team gathered the data from 34,357 participants who took part in the third Trøndelag Health Study from 2006 to 2008.


The participants, who had an average age of just over 51, were all observed until January 1, 2018.

The survey allowed researchers to follow the evolution of people’s health over many years.

They found that around 17 percent of the participants’ sleep issues were serious enough to warrant a prescription from their doctor.

Ernstsen said: “Almost 5,800 of the participants received their first prescription sleep medication during the study period.”

However, the fitter participants used fewer of these prescription drugs.

The research team hopes these findings influence the sleep advice that doctors give their patients.

Ernstsen added: “Our findings support the idea that improving or maintaining fitness can be an effective alternative for preventing sleep problems.”

The results of the study were published by Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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