Researchers have found that physical activity can make up for poor sleep when it comes to preventing cancer or heart disease (iStockphoto)
In an ideal world, we would all have time for eight or nine hours of sleep a night and would feel like we were on top of the world.
Aside from improved mood, the benefits of a good night’s sleep are numerous: studies have shown it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
But usually jobs, children, social engagement, sporting events, Netflix, PlayStation, a good book or worries and fears can stand in the way of a solid end to the night.
What to do? Well, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise can make up for poor quality sleep.
The results come from examining the data of 380,055 middle-aged people involved in the UK Biobank’s research project.
The researchers looked at people’s weekly physical activity over a period of 11 years.
Participants were categorized into three physical activity levels (high, medium, or low according to WHO guidelines) and were also given a sleep quality rating of 0-5 based on the amount of sleep they got, how long they stayed up, insomnia, snoring, and daytime sleepiness .
“We found that compared to healthy sleepers, people with poor sleep had a 23% higher risk of premature death, a 39% higher risk of dying from heart disease, and a 13% higher risk of cancer die, ”explains epidemiologist Bo-Huei Huang from the University of Sydney in Australia.
“We then compared the data of people who slept well with those who slept poorly and how much they exercised.
“We found that people at the highest risk of dying from heart disease and cancer were those who slept poorly and who did not meet WHO guidelines for physical activity.
“On the other hand, those who slept poorly but did enough physical activity to meet WHO guidelines were less at risk of dying from heart disease or cancer compared to those who slept poorly and were physically poor fulfilled activity guidelines. ‘
The research doesn’t do enough to literally prove that exercise can replace sleep, but it shows sufficient correlation for interested scientists.
“Levels of physical activity at or above the WHO-recommended lower threshold appeared to eliminate most of the deleterious associations of poor sleep and mortality,” the researchers write in their article.
“Both behaviors are vital to health, but unfortunately our society suffers from both physical inactivity and a poor sleep crisis,” says University of Sydney population health researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis.
“Given that physical activity is perhaps more changeable than sleep, our study offers people more health incentives to be physically active; and gives health professionals more reasons to prescribe physical activity to patients with sleep problems. ‘
MORE: Can you get rid of a bad mood? New face scanner tool measures the effects of exercise on your mind
MORE: Thirty minutes of exercise won’t counteract sitting all day – but light exercise can help