Sleep problems can dramatically reduce your general quality of life. Being underslept leads to poor mental and physical health. And new science suggests that some common-wisdom interventions for good sleep may not work. The research suggests that yoga and aerobic exercise may make no significant impact on sleep quality for middle-aged women.
The randomized, controlled study showed that neither twelve weeks of regular aerobics or twelve weeks of consistent yoga practice made a significant impact on duration or quality of sleep, as measured by a device called an ActiGraph.
The study subjects didn’t report any difficulty in falling asleep, but staying asleep proved challenging. The middle-aged women, all of whom were experiencing hot flashes, would awaken from sleep at some time during the night for an average of about fifty minutes.
The new study’s authors say that their findings stand in contradiction to previous findings of the same trial, which demonstrated a small but statistically significant positive impact on self-reported sleep quality.
Diana Taibi Buchanan, the author’s lead study, says, “Our primary findings were that the two study interventions had no significant effects on objective sleep outcomes in midlife women with hot flashes. The main implication of this finding is that other behavior treatments with the potential for effectively improving sleep in this population should be examined.”
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, used data from the Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health Network. The sample consisted of 186 late-transition and post-menopausal women who were experiencing hot flashes. They ranged in age from forty to sixty-two.
The participants wore wrist ActiGraphs to measure quantitative indices of sleep quality. They also recorded the times the participants went to bed and got up in the morning.
The authors of the study suggest that future research should be conducted to either corroborate or refute their findings. They also recommend that middle-aged women who are suffering from sleep interruptions should seek treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy.
This doesn’t mean that engaging in aerobic exercise, yoga and other physical activity isn’t worth it for its own sake. Exercise has health benefits that are so far-reaching as to represent a nearly miraculous preventative medicine.
If you are suffering from poor sleep hygiene, also consider ceasing the use of all electronics a minimum of one hour prior to sleep, and making sure that your bedroom is as dark as you can make it.