Study Shows Midlife Women have no Sleep Benefits from Yoga and Exercise

New research shows that aerobic exercise and yoga do not significantly impact the sleep disturbances objectively reported by midlife women who experience hot flashes.

A randomized control trial was used for secondary analysis of this finding.  Researchers found that neither 12 weeks of cardiac exercise nor 12 weeks of yoga showed any statistically significant differences in the objective measures of quality and duration recorded by participants.  There were no reports of difficulty falling asleep; however, sleep disturbance was a common occurrence at baseline measurements and then remained that way after the interventions.  The women reported waking up in the middle of the night for at least 50 minutes, and sometimes longer.

Authors of this study note that prior analyses published in various journals used the same trial to state that aerobic exercise and yoga interventions did show statistically significant improvements in self-reported insomnia severity and sleep quality, albeit small improvements.

Lead author of the analysis, Diana Taibi Buchanan, associate professor at the University of Washington in Seattle’s Bio-Behavioral Nursing and Health Informatics department, noted that these primary findings showed that the two interventions of aerobics and yoga did not significantly improve objective sleep outcomes in women in their middle years who suffer from hot flashes.  These findings imply there are other behavioral treatments that have the potential to improve sleep quality and duration in this population, and that this should be further studied.

These results were published in January’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, which can be found online.

The MsFLASH network, which stands for Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health, was used in this study analysis by researchers.  There were 186 postmenopausal and late transition women experiencing hot flashes.  All women were aged between 40 and 62 years.  Each woman experienced an average of 7.3 to 8 hot flashes every day.  For this study analysis, researchers randomized participants into one of three groups: usual activity, 12 weeks of aerobic exercise, or 12 weeks of yoga.

Wrist actigraphy was used to measure sleep.  The sleep and wake times were determined specifically from each participant’s sleep diary.  Average sleep duration at the beginning of the study and after the intervention was less than the recommended seven hours each night, as given by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for best health benefits in adults.

Scientists from this study note that additional research should be performed to explore approaches that would improve sleep quality in this patient population, which likely will include cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).


Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.



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