A brisk walk could undo the damage caused by poor sleep in insomniacs, new study suggests
- Researchers monitored exercise and sleep levels in 380,000 Britons for 11 years
- Found that poor sleep and lack of exercise independently increased risk of death
- But they dramatically reduced their risk of disease if they were active
Insomniacs can undo the health damage caused by poor sleep if they go on a brisk walk every day, a major study suggests.
Lack of sleep is linked to health problems including stroke, heart disease and cancer.
But research found that being moderately active appeared to ‘eliminate’ the harms of insomnia.
Researchers followed 380,000 middle-aged Britons for 11 years, monitoring exercise levels, sleep quality and number of deaths.
A lack of sleep has been linked to health problems including stroke, heart disease and cancer, but research has found that being moderately active appeared to ‘eliminate’ the harms of insomnia (stock photo)
They found that poor sleep and lack of exercise independently increased the risk of death.
But adults who slept badly dramatically reduced their risk of disease if they were active.
The damaging effects of poor sleep were offset if participants met the World Health Organisation’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week – the equivalent of a 20-minute brisk walk or jog a day.
During the study period, 15,503 participants died. Deaths were most common among those with both poor sleep and exercise scores.
Inactive insomniacs had a 57 per cent higher risk of early death than healthy sleepers – they were 67 per cent more likely to die from heart disease and 45 per cent more likely to die from cancer.
But deaths in poor sleepers who also exercised were around the same level as deaths of those who had good sleep quality.
Experts are still unclear about precisely why poor sleep is linked to health problems, but insomnia is linked to chronic stress, which can inflame arteries and lead to heart failure.
Insomniacs may also eat less healthily and exercise less.
The study authors, from the University of Sydney, concluded: ‘Levels of physical activity above the WHO recommendation appeared to eliminate most of the detrimental associations of poor sleep and mortality.
‘Our results support the value of interventions to target both physical activity and sleep to improve health.’
Participants in the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, were aged 55 on average, and about half had unhealthy sleep patterns.