Movers and Sleepers: The Link Between Activity and Sleep

Silhouette of a woman running, evening exercise

We all know diet and exercise have a major impact on overall health, and those factors can significantly affect sleep, as well. That’s just one of the findings of the 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey, fielded by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association. The second edition of the sleep survey — conducted in January with a follow-up in March to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — found that the quality of Americans’ sleep has declined since 2019. 

According to the survey, 37% of Americans reported waking up tired often or frequently, and a quarter said they wake up stiff, sore or in pain. Perhaps some of those sleep issues can be attributed to inactivity.

According to survey findings, the number of Americans who exercise dropped from last year, with more than a quarter saying they don’t exercise. And those who do engage in physical activity are doing it less than in 2019. Respondents reported spending an average of 2.31 hours a week exercising in 2020 versus 2.48 hours in 2019.

But here’s some good news: More than half of survey respondents do exercise regularly. The majority of them — 57% — most often engage in moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, water aerobics, power flow yoga and ballroom/social dancing. A quarter of Americans enjoy vigorous activities, such as running, tennis, aerobic dancing, swimming, spinning and weightlifting. And 17% prefer low-intensity exercises like slow flow yoga and tai chi.

Outdoor activities ranked among Americans’ favorite exercise methods. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed enjoy taking part in outdoor pursuits, such as hiking, bike riding and kayaking. And 28% of respondents enjoy participating in competitive sports like basketball, tennis and golf. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, activities that promote both mind and body wellness, like yoga and meditation, have become more important than ever. According to the survey, 33% of respondents enjoy meditating, and nearly a quarter practice yoga regularly.

With greater levels of stress due to health and financial concerns related to COVID-19, maintaining some sort of regular exercise routine — be it outdoors or indoor activities that can be performed in the home — has an even greater impact on the well-being of Americans. And with poor sleep plaguing more and more people in the United States, making time and space for exercise could help make bedtime more restful and satisfying. 

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