New study details effects of exercise on sleep quality in postmenopausal women

October 30, 2003

Stretching and exercise may improve sleep quality in overweight, postmenopausal women, according to new findings by researchers at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that appear in the November issue of the journal SLEEP.

The beneficial effect of moderate-intensity activity on sleep quality depends, however, on the amount of exercise and the time of day it is performed, according to principal investigator Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., a member of Fred Hutchinson's Public Health Sciences Division.

McTiernan and colleagues found that women who exercised at a moderate intensity for at least half an hour each morning, seven days per week, had less trouble falling asleep than those who exercised less. Conversely, women who performed evening exercises experienced little or no improvement in sleep onset or quality.

"Postmenopausal women commonly report sleep problems. Exercise may help to alleviate these problems, as long as it is performed early in the day," says McTiernan, also a research professor in the School of Medicine (Division of Geriatrics) and School of Public Health and Community Medicine (Department of Epidemiology) at the University of Washington.

One possible explanation, the researchers note, is that morning versus evening exercise may differentially modulate circadian rhythms that affect sleep quality. More research is needed to confirm this theory.

While the study reports that increased physical fitness is a strong indicator of improved sleep quality in postmenopausal women, who are at higher risk for lower sleep quality, more research needs to be conducted to build on these preliminary findings as well.

The complete study, entitled "Effects of a Yearlong Moderate-Intensity Exercise and a Stretching Intervention on Sleep Quality in Postmenopausal Women," can be viewed on the journal SLEEP Web site, www.journalsleep.org.
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SLEEP is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The members of these two organizations represent basic, applied, clinical and research interests in field of sleep. To view the online version of the journal, visit www.journalsleep.org. To learn more about the AASM, visit http://www.aasmnet.org; to learn more about the SRS, visit http://www.sleepresearchsociety.org.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel Prize laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical research to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation, the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred Hutchinson, in collaboration with its clinical and research partners, the University of Washington and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of 39 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at http://www.fhcrc.org.

Advancing Knowledge, Saving Lives

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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