In order to really have balance in your life, it's essential that you understand the relationship between sleep and exercise. Both are necessary for optimal health, and they both have effects on the other. When you understand this interplay, then it will be easier for you to create a schedule that works for you that includes both of these valuable practices.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is important for your body to perform many "reset" practices. When you sleep, your brain is able to consolidate information and solidify memories. Also during this time, your muscles are able to repair themselves and your metabolism is fast at work breaking down the foods you've eaten into several macromolecules in your body. Without this time, you're subject to lower brain function, impaired focus, and overall fatigue which can lead to obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and more chronic diseases. It is recommended that adults sleep between 7-8 hours a night.
Why is exercise important?
Exercise is important for cardiovascular health, reduces the chances of acquiring diabetes or becoming obese, mental health, and many other benefits. Exercise can also increase your water intake and help you be more mindful about your nutrition and having a good balance.
There are several different forms and ranges of exercise from moderate walking to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. Engaging in a mix of cardio, strength training, and restorative workouts will help target different parts of your body. It is recommended that adults complete at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity workout a week.
How does exercise impact my sleep?
Exercise has beneficial impacts on sleep by helping your body create a schedule, releasing sleep-inducing hormones, and using up energy stores. Exercise helps establish your circadian rhythm. When you workout at a certain time of the day, and consistently stick to that time of day, you help your body establish a schedule so it knows when to anticipate bedtime. This is part of sleep hygiene, doing the same activities at certain parts of the day so your brain prepares itself for sleep.
Exercise also releases a hormone called adenosine. Adenosine has sleep-inducing effects on the body which causes us to feel sleepy. This doesn't mean that if you workout in the morning, though, that you'll be groggy throughout your day. But if you decided to workout at nighttime, this can be an activity that helps you drop into bed sooner. In fact, a study published in the journal Sleep Medicine reported that those who completed 4 moderate intensity workouts a week for 6 weeks fell asleep 75 minutes earlier than those who didn't. So the harder you workout, the more adenosine will help you fall asleep faster than any sleep medications.
How does sleep impact exercise?
Aside from the aforementioned benefit of repairing muscles, sleep also provides you with energy to workout. When you are sleep deprived from an all-nighter, or anything less than 6 hours, you put yourself at risk for faster fatigue, simply from a lack of energy. So much of exercise is mental and requires focus, and sleep deprivation reduces your ability to focus and push through adversity. There is no cardiovascular effect on not getting enough sleep, but without allowing proper time for muscle recovery, you do put yourself at risk for sore muscles and injury.
If you're already running short on sleep, it may not be worth it to wake up in the morning to workout. You risk having a subpar workout when you could get an extra hour of sleep. But, if you have gotten your 7-8 hours then it's definitely worth it to get a good sweat. There is no particular difference between working out in the morning and working out at night, you just want to make sure that you are consistent. However, a study showed low intensity workouts like yoga and pilates may be better options for nighttime workouts as they will not spike your heart rate and make it hard to go to sleep.
If you're having trouble sleeping and would like to exercise, take the free online sleep test and talk with an expert about how to create this balance.