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Low leisure-time physical activity, but not shift-work, contributes to the development of sleep complaints in Swedish health care workers

Journal article
Authors M. Gerber
Magnus Lindwall
M. Börjesson
Emina Hadzibajramovic
I. H. Jonsdottir
Published in Mental Health and Physical Activity
Volume 13
Pages 22-29
ISSN 1755-2966
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Psychology
Pages 22-29
Language en
Keywords Complaints, Follow-up, Health care workers, Physical activity, Shift, Sleep
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health


Problem Regular physical activity (PA) can prevent sleep complaints and improve sleep among people with sleep disorders, whereas nocturnal shift work is linked with a higher risk of sleep problems. The present study examines the prospective contribution of PA and nocturnal shift work to the development of subjective sleep complaints. Methods Data is based on 1406 health care workers (M = 45.67 years, 88% women). Physical activity and sleep complaints were assessed via self-reports twice across a 2-year period. To address the issue of reverse causation, only participants without initial sleep difficulties were included in the prospective analyses. Results Moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) was associated with a lower risk of developing difficulties falling asleep at the 2-year follow-up. Both light PA and MVPA were associated with a lower risk of developing feeling of exhaustion upon waking. The prospective association between PA and these two sleep complaints persisted after controlling for covariates. No significant prospective association was found between PA and night time awakenings. Shift work was not related to any of the sleep complaints. Conclusions The findings suggest that regular PA contributes to the prevention of new sleep complaints, independent of whether participants engage in nocturnal shift work. Promoting PA can be a promising strategy to prevent sleep problems, both in shift-workers and non-shift-workers. © 2017 Elsevier Ltd

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