depression (MDD) experience some form of sleep disturbance. The most common sleep problem is i..." /> depression (MDD) experience some form of sleep disturbance. The most common sleep problem is i..." />

Exercise Helps Reduce Insomnia in Individuals with Depression

Most individuals with major depression (MDD) experience some form of sleep disturbance. The most common sleep problem is insomnia, which can include difficulty falling asleep, waking during sleep, daytime fatigue, and early morning insomnia. In fact, insomnia is considered a symptom of relapse for people with MDD who are currently in remission. For those who are not in remission, addressing sleep disturbances may be a way to expedite symptom reduction. This is especially important for individuals who do not respond to traditional treatments.

Therefore, Chad D. Rethorst of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas conducted a study that was a follow up to a previous exploration of the effects of exercise on remission and insomnia in a sample of 122 adult clients with current MDD symptoms. Rethorst divided the participants into two groups. One group participated in high intensity exercise for 12 weeks, while the other group completed a low intensity exercise program. Both groups received an SSRI antidepressant. Rethorst assessed baseline MDD and insomnia symptoms and evaluated the clients again at the end of the 12 week study period.

He found that exercise in conjunction with the SSRI had a significantly positive effect on insomnia. In fact, the individuals with the highest levels of insomnia at baseline, especially daytime fatigue, had the greatest reductions in depressive symptoms after the intervention. Rethorst also discovered that both groups of participants benefited from the treatment, regardless of level of exercise intensity. He also realized that reductions in insomnia symptoms were independent of depressive symptoms. This suggests that individuals with MDD and insomnia may be able to achieve better levels of sleep by adding exercise to their treatment program. By improving sleep quality and duration, they may be able to protect themselves from MDD relapse or may even be able to assist in eventual remission. In sum, these results clearly provide support for exercise in the treatment of MDD. Rethorst added that because insomnia was a prevalent residual symptom after MDD treatments, “exercise augmentation may have an important role in the treatment of MDD.”

Rethorst, C. D., et al. (2013). Does exercise improve self-reported sleep quality in non-remitted major depressive disorder? Psychological Medicine 43.4 (2013): 699-709. ProQuest. Web.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Phil

    March 27th, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Totally true story! I didn’t get a full night’s sleep even with an antidepressant until I started getting my heart rate going by doing cardio at the gym for 30 minutes a day five days a week.

  • soloman

    March 27th, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    So I wonder what happens if someone just exercises and doesn’t take the antidepressant. I’m not anti-medicine or anything, just wondering what would happen. Or, maybe they could take half their doseage or something?

  • BT Harris

    March 27th, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    This is great news and hopefully everyone will take heed:



  • Haleek

    March 27th, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Exercise is such an amazing tool to have when depressed. It not only improves sleep, it also helps during waking hours. Just the boost to the patient’s self esteem is a wonderful thing to witness.

  • initra k

    March 27th, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    ok really? like how in the world is this going to happen i mean getting someone to exercise that hard and that much who is not depressed is hard enough. so now you are telling me i have to get my depressed mother off of the couch and exercising every day all she wants to do is sit around and eat all day and watch tv how am i supposed to get her to do that?

  • Kayla

    March 27th, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    But you do have to be careful not to do it too close to bedtime or it could sometimes get you all hyped up

  • chill-e

    March 27th, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    depression – often keeps me indoors and doing nothing. have not had a major episode yet but do find myself feeling depressed quite often.exercise would be the last thing on my mind when depressive feelings take over do I integrate that into my daily tasks?

  • zara

    March 28th, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    I agree that it is so hard when you are depressed to feel like doing anything other than crawling under the covers to hide. But take it from me, a once avid exercise basher and one who has suffered from her fair share of depressive episodes. . . there are days now that since I have started exercising regularly that I can tell such a difference in my whole attitude when I don’t exercide. It has become such an integral part of my life that now without it I don’t feel quite right. And it was hard in the beginning, and I know that it could be for you too. But trust me on this one. There is not better medicine to go outside and take a walk and just enjoy nature. Afetr a while it kind of makes you see the beauty that is there and helps you have a greater appreciation for the world that surrounds you. And that my friend, is a real healer.

  • Mena

    March 29th, 2013 at 4:12 AM

    The body is designed to move. Get it moving and sometimes all of the other things fall into place on their own.

  • Devon

    March 30th, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    Nothing like some exercise to get that eye shut time when I have trouble falling asleep!

  • Callum

    March 30th, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    It is going to take a pretty convincing therapist to convince me that exercising and exerting myself is going to be the key to helping me sleep at night. I just get too keyed up when I exercise, and I have tried morning, afternoon, and night. I know you are probably thinkin that I am just lazy, and that’s not it. But any time that I have tried this, because this is not the first time I have come across an article telling me that to sleep better I should try exercise, every time it has back fired on me. Kind of like I am the only person I know who could probably drink a whole bottle of NyQuil and be awake for days. The things that you think are going to help never do and I end up feeling even worse.

  • Scot

    April 1st, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I am not as familiar with the problem of insomnia (thank goodness!) that some are all too familiar with, but I do know this. A good workout makes you feel good about yourself. You can be feeling terrible but get in one good workout, and that changes your whole mindset for the day. I’m telling you, I know that it’s not sometimes the easiest thing to do, but I can almost promise you that it’s one of the best things that you can do for the body and for the mind. I used to be a non believer too, and am relatively new to the whole routine. But it is a real life changer once you make it a part of your daily life.

  • clinica del sueño

    April 5th, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    In other studies, we observed that moderate exercise is more effective for women with a family history of mental illness, whereas intense exercise is more effective for women whose families have no history of the disease. And for men, the highest rate of exercise is the most effective regardless of the type of mental-emotional

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.