Exercise might improve sleep quality in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study presented at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) 2016 annual meeting, June 1 – 4, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.
The study, “The Impact of Exercise on Sleep Quality in Individuals with Multiple Sclerosis,” was part of the Whitaker Research Track Session II. The track sessions were named to honor the memory of renowned MS researcher Dr. John N. Whitaker, whose work is known to inspire many into the field of MS research.
In the study, a research team from University of Kansas Medical Center figured that if exercise is proven to improve sleep problems in healthy adults, it might so the same for patients with MS – for whom sleep disturbances are common.
The study included data on 22 patients, average age 49.8 years, with either relapsing-remitting or secondary progressive MS. The group consisted of 19 women and three men, who followed the exercise program to at least 70%.
Researchers assessed both sleep quality and cardiorespiratory fitness at study start; patients were then randomized to one of two exercise programs. One consisted of supervised aerobic exercise of moderate intensity, and the other was a home exercise program concentrated on stretching and low intensity walking.
Participants followed the programs for 12 weeks and were then re-assessed.
Both groups showed improved sleep quality. The aerobic exercise group scored 12% better on the assessment test, and the low-intensity group improved scores by 22%.
The aerobic exercise group also improved cardiorespiratory fitness, with a 13.3% increase in predicted maximal oxygen consumption – but that did not correlate to the improved sleep quality scores. In contrast, the low-intensity exercise group reduced predicted maximal oxygen consumption by 3.2%, despite good improvement in sleep quality.
The findings indicated that cardiorespiratory fitness does not impact sleep and that other factors must be involved in the beneficial actions of exercise on sleep quality. While future studies might clarify the mechanisms of this relationship, exercise for MS patients is clearly good.