Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Does exercise improve self-reported sleep quality in non-remitted major depressive disorder?

C. D. Rethorsta1 c1, P. Sunderajana1, T. L. Greera1, B. D. Grannemanna1, P. A. Nakoneznya1, T. J. Carmodya1 and M. H. Trivedia1

a1 University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA

Background Sleep disturbances are persistent residual symptoms following remission of major depressive disorder (MDD) and are associated with an increased risk of MDD recurrence. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effect of exercise augmentation on self-reported sleep quality in participants with non-remitted MDD.

Method Participants were randomized to receive selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) augmentation with one of two doses of exercise: 16 kilocalories per kilogram of body weight per week (KKW) or 4 KKW for 12 weeks. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the clinician-rated Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS-C). The four sleep-related items on the IDS-C (Sleep Onset Insomnia, Mid-Nocturnal Insomnia, Early Morning Insomnia, and Hypersomnia) were used to assess self-reported sleep quality.

Results Significant decreases in total insomnia (p < 0.0001) were observed, along with decreases in sleep onset, mid-nocturnal and early-morning insomnia (p's <0.002). Hypersomnia did not change significantly (p = 0.38). Changes in total, mid-nocturnal and early-morning insomnia were independent of changes in depressive symptoms. Higher baseline hypersomnia predicted a greater decrease in depression severity following exercise treatment (p = 0.0057). No significant moderating effect of any baseline sleep on change in depression severity was observed. There were no significant differences between exercise treatment groups on total insomnia or any individual sleep item.

Conclusions Exercise augmentation resulted in improvements in self-reported sleep quality in patients with non-remitted MDD. Given the prevalence of insomnia as a residual symptom following MDD treatment and the associated risk of MDD recurrence, exercise augmentation may have an important role in the treatment of MDD.

(Received March 28 2012)

(Revised June 07 2012)

(Accepted July 03 2012)

(Online publication August 29 2012)

Key words

  • Augmentation;
  • depression;
  • exercise;
  • insomnia;
  • physical activity;
  • sleep


c1 Address for correspondence: C. D. Rethorst, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-9119, USA. (Email: