While one in five people in China have symptoms of a sleep disorder, only one in 10 who exercise regularly report problems sleeping, according to a study released on Thursday by the Chinese Sleep Research Society.
The COVID-19 epidemic has also deepened the divide in sleeping patterns between couch potatoes and regular exercisers, as people who lead sedentary lifestyles are less inclined to work out due to travel restrictions, causing further disruptions to their circadian rhythms, the study said.
"As the spread of the virus has been suppressed in China, a key step toward returning to normal lives should be going outdoors more often and working out more regularly, to tackle the increasing prevalence of sleep issues," said Guo Xiheng, head of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital's sleep research center and a member of the research society.
Sleep disorders and insufficient sleeping hours have become more prominent in China in recent years.
Previous reports released by the society showed that more than 38 percent of Chinese adults suffer from insomnia, with the rate climbing each year. Recent research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences also warned that more than 80 percent of children and teenagers do not get enough sleep on school days.
The new study surveyed more than 14,000 people across the country on their sleep and exercise habits.
Respondents in the southern province of Guangdong and Jilin province in Northeast China turned out to be the most active. They also reported higher rates of securing seven to eight hours of sleep at night and lower rates of insomnia.
The study also found that exercising for at least half an hour daily, doing more full-body cardio exercises such as swimming and boxing, and working out more in the morning, are some of the key factors that contribute to high-quality sleep at night.
Those who exercise for more than an hour a day and incorporate weight lifting in their workout plans also find it easier to pull themselves out of bed every morning after waking up, the study said.
People who prefer ball sports, planking and situps report longer periods of slow-wave sleep, or deep sleep, it said.
Han Fang, from the respiratory department at Peking University People's Hospital, said chronic sleep deprivation－meaning sleeping less than seven hours for most adults－will boost the risk of premature death by 26 percent.
"Sound sleep at night is also closely linked to stronger immunity against disease. Recent research suggests individuals make sure they get enough sleep the night before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, to avoid weakening the efficacy of the vaccine," he said.