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Jun 9, 2021 | Reverberating Science

Sleep And Physical Activity

Reproduced by Rodrigo Fava Neto

The main article we bring is a study of the long-term relationship between Physical Activity and Sleep Quality, published in 2018 in the National Library of Medicine (USA).

But as both Sleep and Physical Activity are among the best tools to improve health and quality of life, we use other articles to briefly talk about the benefit and recommended amount of each.

If you like the excerpts I transcribed here, I recommend reading them in full, link at the end of the text.

approx. 5 minutes reading

Sleep Benefits

Sufficient sleep is essential for optimal health – just a few of the numerous processes that take place during sleep include memory consolidation, clearance of brain metabolites, and restoration of the nervous, immune, skeletal and muscle systems.

Virtually all bodily systems are affected by problems or inadequate sleep and chronic sleep disorders predispose the individual to cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, psychiatric disorders and early mortality.


Adequate amount of sleep

Scientists refer to sleep drive as a homeostatic system. Like body temperature or blood sugar, sleep is regulated internally.

When we stay awake for a long period of time, brain structures promote sleep. Furthermore, the duration and depth of our sleep varies according to the quantity and quality of sleep previously obtained.

With each waking hour, there is a strengthening of the homeostatic sleep drive. This strengthening is not directly measurable as a quantity, but experts think it is the result of the level of brain activity during the wakefulness. One hypothesis suggests that the build-up of adenosine in the brain, a by-product of cells’ energy consumption, promotes sleep. The fact that both adenosine and the sleep drive increase during wakefulness and dissipate during sleep suggests a possible link between the two.

Our relatively steady state of alertness throughout a 16-hour day is due to what scientists call the circadian alerting system, a function of our internal biological clock. The clock, which is responsible for regulating a vast number of daily cycles, is found in a relatively small collection of neurons in the brain.

Under normal conditions, the clock is highly synchronized with our sleep/wake cycle. Thus, the clock’s alerting signal increases with every hour of wakefulness, opposing the sleep drive that is building at the same time. Only when the internal clock’s alerting signal drops off does sleep load overcome this opposing force and allow for onset of sleep.

Benefits of Physical Activity

There is overwhelming evidence for the effectiveness of regular physical activity in preventing various chronic diseases, for example, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, and early death.

Regular physical activity is also associated with improved psychological well-being, for example, through reduced stress, anxiety and depression. Psychological well-being is particularly important for the prevention and management of chronic illnesses.

Two recent systematic reviews revealed that increased musculoskeletal fitness is positively associated with functional independence, mobility, glucose homeostasis, bone health, psychological well-being, and general quality of life, and is negatively associated with the risk of falls, illness, and premature death.

Amount of Physical Activity

The benefits are irrefutable, however, the doubt remains about the ideal “volume” (frequency, duration and intensity of exercise) and the minimum volume for health benefits, in particular the effects of intensity (eg moderate v. Vigorous ) in the state of health.

There is evidence that the intensity of physical activity is inversely and linearly associated with mortality.

The work of Paffenbarger and associates revealed that regular physical activity (spending > 2,000 kcal [8,400 kJ] per week) was associated with an average increase in life expectancy from 1 to 2 years at 80 and that the benefits were linear even at  lower levels of energy expenditure.

Subsequent studies have shown that an average energy expenditure of about 1000 kcal (4200 kJ) per week is associated with a 20% to 30% reduction in all-cause mortality.

Today, most health and fitness organizations and professionals advocate a minimum amount of exercise that expends 1000 kcal (4200 kJ) per week and recognize the additional benefits of increased energy expenditure.

There appears to be a graduated linear relationship between the amount of physical activity and health status, so that the most physically active people are at the lowest risk.

The results of cross-sectional surveys indicate that the relationship between sleep quality and physical activity is mixed. The interpretation most often found is that physical activity leads to better sleep or, less frequently, that better sleep leads to greater involvement in physical activity.

Cross-sectional studies, however, are not able to assess the direction of these effects, and experimental studies have only tested one direction of effects. Therefore, longitudinal studies, with their focus on temporal order, were conducted to specifically examine the link between sleep and physical activity, as well as the direction of effects.

Participants included a sample of 827 (Mean age at baseline = 19.04 years, SD = 0.92 years, 73.88% female) students from a university in southwestern Ontario. Participants were surveyed annually for 3 years (2011, 2012, 2013; retention, 83.9%). The measures assessed sleep quality, physical activity, emotion regulation and involvement in sports clubs.

The study revealed that sleep quality is indirectly related to increased physical activity over time through its positive effect on emotion regulation. And in the opposite sense, only moderate physical activities showed an indirect relationship with improvement in sleep quality, and again through emotion regulation.


For those of you who expected good influences from Sleep and Physical Activity, be happy to know that both Sleep and Physical Activity also positively influence the Emotional State.

link to the article about the relationship between sleep and physical activity.

link to the article about sleep.

link to the article about physical activity.


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