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date: 22 March 2019

Physical Activity, Physical Fitness, and Sleep

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.

Physical activity has been considered to promote sleep. So far, a number of studies have indicated that both acute and chronic physical activity improve sleep. These changes include prolongation of total sleep time, slow wave sleep (SWS) increase, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep decrease, wake after sleep onset (WASO) reduction, and shortened sleep latency. However, detailed biological mechanisms of these effects have not been well elucidated. Moreover, some reported high-intensity physical activity just before bedtime could reduce the amount of subsequent SWS.

These past studies strongly suggest that the sleep promoting effects of exercise could be multifactorial. Increase of SWS, which has been repeatedly reported, strongly suggest an effect of physical activity on the central nervous system (CNS) function. Physical activity also elevates body temperature (BT) and alters glucose and other metabolic regulations. Habitual exercise also alters the predominance measure of the autonomic nervous system by heart rate variability (HRV). Elucidation of these mechanisms could lead to clearer application of physical activity for prevention and treatment of diseases associated with adult lifestyle habits, such as Type II diabetes.