By Jennifer Nelson
For adults with sleep apnea, sleeping may become a minefield of daytime sleepiness, fatigue and a host of serious health conditions. But there is hope: Research shows that patients who take part in an exercise program in addition to their CPAP treatment can cut the severity of their disorder by 25 percent.
Study researcher Dr. Christopher Kline, a postdoctoral scholar in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Sleep Medicine, noted in a WebMD article what was compelling about the research was the patients achieved the 25 percent reduction without any weight loss.
Being overweight is a risk factor for sleep apnea, and studies suggest losing weight can improve the condition. But while weight loss is desirable, simply exercising along with using the CPAP machine was enough to improve apnea symptoms, according to the study.
What’s more, exercise also reduced daytime sleepiness, decreased fatigue and sharpened thinking.
Exercise has potent benefits to cardiovascular health and offers other positive mood and health paybacks, so it’s a no-brainer that people who exercise also may be more tired at night and sleep better overall.
Another study split male CPAP patients into two groups—one that exercised and one that didn’t. The exercising group walked and ran three times a week for two months.
At the end of the study, those who exercised were found to have less daytime sleepiness, improved quality of life including physical functioning and general health perception, and better mood with less tension and fatigue.
Researchers caution that exercise alone should not be a substitute for medical treatment of sleep apnea. However, studies so far conclude that exercise as a therapy along with CPAP is a positive step in helping to manage sleep apnea and improve its symptoms.
So it would seem moving more during the day can help sleep apnea sufferers sleep sounder at night.