Relationships between sleep, physical activity and human health

Greg Atkinson, Damien Davenne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    89 Citations (Scopus)


    Although sleep and exercise may seem to be mediated by completely different physiological mechanisms, there is growing evidence for clinically important relationships between these two behaviors. It is known that passive body heating facilitates the nocturnal sleep of healthy elderly people with insomnia. This finding supports the hypothesis that changes in body temperature trigger somnogenic brain areas to initiate sleep. Nevertheless, little is known about how the core and distal thermoregulatory responses to exercise fit into this hypothesis. Such knowledge could also help in reducing sleep problems associated with nocturnal shiftwork. It is difficult to incorporate physical activity into a shiftworker's lifestyle, since it is already disrupted in terms of family commitments and eating habits. A multi-research strategy is needed to identify what the optimal amounts and timing of physical activity are for reducing shiftwork-related sleep problems. The relationships between sleep, exercise and diet are also important, given the recently reported associations between short sleep length and obesity. The cardiovascular safety of exercise timing should also be considered, since recent data suggest that the reactivity of blood pressure to a change in general physical activity is highest during the morning. This time is associated with an increased risk in general of a sudden cardiac event, but more research work is needed to separate the influences of light, posture and exercise per se on the haemodynamic responses to sleep and physical activity following sleep taken at night and during the day as a nap.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)229-235
    Number of pages7
    JournalPhysiology and Behavior
    Issue number2-3
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2007


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