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Physical activity could help improve sleep, highlights Women in Data study
Wed, 13th Dec 2023

Increasing daily physical activity may enhance the quality of sleep and extend its duration, with individuals who are more active tending to sleep approximately 75 minutes longer on average, a recent data study has found. The research, as part of a sleep hackathon hosted by Women in Data and collaborated with Capgemini, discovered that moderate physical activity, in particular, could even alleviate stress, and consequently, improve sleep overall.

The virtual sleep hack event analysed public datasets on sleep patterns, seeking to understand sleep quality and its implications on overall health. The event's findings suggested that getting active might be an effective solution for better sleep. However, results may vary depending on gender. It was found that men tend to experience more favourable sleep outcomes from physical activity than women.

The data study highlighted that women are 1.3 to 1.8 times more prone to encounter sleep issues compared to men. Indeed, it revealed that 44% of women get less than the advised seven hours of sleep, with two-thirds reporting sleep problems during menstruation. This discrepancy in sleep health exists despite women frequently taking more daily steps than their male counterparts, and the issue only worsens post the mid-40s.

Natalie Cramp, Chair of the Women's Health Agenda at Women in Data, remarked: “Women are 40% more likely to experience insomnia in their lifetime compared to men, so we wanted to gain deeper insights into the key factors affecting sleep quality. Poor sleep impacts both our physical and mental health, and sleep deprivation is associated with cardiovascular diseases, poor mood and dementia.”

Cramp highlighted that several factors could influence the quality of sleep, including age, gender, lifestyle habits, physical activity, and stress levels. While some of these aspects are innate and unchangeable, she emphasised the necessity to adopt certain lifestyle modifications that could promote improved quality of sleep. These could include managing stress levels more effectively or engaging in regular physical activity.

The Women in Data campaign, encompassing the sleep hack event, aims to achieve gender equality within the data, analytics, and AI industry, with a significant focus on women's health and wellbeing. Cramp further added, “We would like to see greater science-backed health recommendations across the spectrum of women's health which empower us all to take the actions we can to get the help we need and make lifestyle changes which prevent over-medication".

The sleep hack event took place as part of the Women in Data (WiD) Week which ran from 27 November to 1 December. The analysis incorporated data from the Harvard Medical School and the SaYoPillow smart pillow, which provided sleep data for individuals aged between 10-67. Other publicly accessible data were also used as part of the research. The WiD Week, commemorating Women in Data's anniversary, instigates an annual collection of activities to celebrate data science, with their flagship event commencing on Thursday, 7 March 2024 in London.