Evidence summary (Updated 2022)
Physical activity has a positive benefit on sleep quality in those with depression according to the literature and an expert consensus workshop held in April 2018(1). Randomised control trials have shown that supervised weight training 3 times per week can improve sleep quality (p=0.0002) in the elderly, as measured by standardised sleep outcome indices(2) and that 16 weeks of aerobic physical activity can improve sleep and reduce depressive symptoms in the elderly.(3) A systematic review and network meta-analyses showed that exercise improved sleep in people with unipolar depression. Vigorous strength and mind-body exercise were significantly more effective than usual treatment controls.(4)
Observational research of 950 men and 1045 women had shown that physically active young women with depression are less likely to present with excessive sleepiness and young men less likely to have insomnia and fatigue.(5) Qualitative studies have also reported an improvement in regulating sleep patterns.(6)
Quality of Evidence
Grade B – Moderate quality
Strength of recommendation
Grade 1 – Strong recommendation
Physical activity can be recommended to improve sleep quality and reduce the symptoms associated with sleep disorders presenting in depression.
1. Archer T, Josefsson T, Lindwall M. Effects of Physical Exercise on Depressive Symptoms and Biomarkers in Depression. CNS Neurol Disord – Drug Targets. 2015 Jan 26;13(10):1640–53.
2. Singh NA, Clements KM, Fiatarone MA. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of exercise on sleep. Sleep [Internet]. 1997 [cited 2022 Aug 4];20(2):95–101. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9143068/
3. Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med [Internet]. 2010 Oct [cited 2022 Aug 4];11(9):934. Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC2992829/
4. Brupbacher G, Gerger H, Zander-Schellenberg T, Straus D, Porschke H, Gerber M, et al. The effects of exercise on sleep in unipolar depression: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Oct 1;59:101452.