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Public Health


Objective: To investigate whether a dose-response relationship existed between exercise and subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women. This objective represents a post hoc assessment that was not previously considered.

Design: Parallel-group randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Clinical exercise physiology laboratory in Dallas, Texas.

Participants: 437 sedentary or overweight/obese postmenopausal women.

Intervention: Participants were randomised to one of four treatments, each of 6 months of duration: a non-exercise control treatment (n=92) or one of three dosages of moderate-intensity exercise (50% of VO2peak), designed to meet 50% (n=151), 100% (n=99) or 150% (n=95) of the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel physical activity recommendations. Exercise dosages were structured to elicit energy expenditures of 4, 8 or 12 kilocalories per kilogram of body weight per week (KKW), respectively. Analyses were intent to treat.

Primary outcome measures: Continuous scores and odds of having significant sleep disturbance, as assessed by the Sleep Problems Index from the 6-item Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale. Outcome assessors were blinded to participate radomisation assignment.

Results: Change in the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Problems Index score at 6 months significantly differed by treatment group (control: -2.09 (95% CI -4.58 to 0.40), 4 KKW: -3.93 (-5.87 to -1.99), 8 KKW: -4.06 (-6.45 to -1.67), 12 KKW: -6.22 (-8.68 to -3.77); p=0.04), with a significant dose-response trend observed (p=0.02). Exercise training participants had lower odds of having significant sleep disturbance at postintervention compared with control (4 KKW: OR 0.37 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.73), 8 KKW: 0.36 (0.17 to 0.77), 12 KKW: 0.34 (0.16 to 0.72)). The magnitude of weight loss did not differ between treatment conditions. Improvements in sleep quality were not related to changes in body weight, resting parasympathetic control or cardiorespiratory fitness.

Conclusion: Exercise training induced significant improvement in subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women, with even a low dose of exercise resulting in greatly reduced odds of having significant sleep disturbance.

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