A recent issue of “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” published the results of a study on patients with periodic leg movements (PLM). PLM is a night-time problem similar to restless leg syndrome (RLS). It is a repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep. Here are the results of the study, which was done at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil:
Non-drug approaches may lead to an improvement in sleep quality. The objective of our study was to evaluate the effects of intensive (intense short-term) exercise and chronic (regular, longer-term) exercise on sleep patterns in patients with periodic leg movements (PLM).
The study involved short term and longer term exercise. The short-term intensive exercise group consisted of 22 volunteers who underwent testing and also a sleep study on the same night. The longer term exercise group included 11 patients who performed 72 physical training sessions. Blood samples were collected from the groups.
Study results showed that both forms of physical exercise lowered leg movement levels. The short term physical exercise increased sleep efficiency, rapid eye movement (deeper) sleep, and reduced waking after sleep onset, whereas the chronic physical exercise increased sleep efficiency, rapid eye movement sleep, and reduced the time needed to fall asleep. They also found a significant correlation between the release of natural pain killers in the body after acute intensive exercise and the reduction of periodic leg movement symptoms.
Physical exercise may improve sleep patterns and reduce periodic leg movement levels. The researchers suggest that physical exercise may be a useful non drug-based treatment.
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