The decision to ‘sleep in’ and get the prescribed 7,5 hours of sleep versus waking up to fit in the essential 30-60 minutes of exercise required each day is a tough one.
Most adults are juggling a job that spills over into their evenings and weekends; a Smart phone that is keeping them informed of every new development be it political, economical or gossip-worthy; a family that is becoming more dependent on them as they find themselves sandwiched between their own loving little ones and their aging parents facing phenomenon such as retirement and illness; and an ever-increasing societal expectation of personal health and wellness despite living a considerably unbalanced lifestyle.
So when faced with the decision of exercise versus sleep what is the best response? Here are some points to consider when weighing up your decision.
1. Stressor versus stress relief
Exercise can be stress-relieving, but it can also be a stressor on the body. What matters is the intensity of the exercise. Are you going for a slow jog or doing a yoga class or are you doing a trail run or split-interval training? Exercise that causes muscle damage is going to require good nutrition and good sleep to heal, so if you know that you aren’t going to get your 7,5 hours sleep in for a few days then you will be wise to pick a lower intensity level until you can fit in some more sleep.
2. The work you do
Are you desk-bound or do you spend most of your work hours on your feet? It is likely that desk job workers have more to gain by waking up earlier to exercise than those who spend the day on their feet who may fare better getting the required 7,5 hours of sleep. Ask yourself, what is my body missing more- movement or rest?
3. The life you lead
Are you living in a constant state of anxiety and teetering dangerously on the edge of burnout? Exercise makes use of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and sends your body into a post-exercise state of relaxation. Exercising early in the morning may help you feel better, give you a chance to process big decision and have a more productive work day rather than starting work feeling frazzled and on the back foot.
4. The sleep you get
If you battle to fall asleep and stay asleep then waking up earlier to get some exercise in may actually improve your overall sleep quality. Those who exercised during the day fell asleep within 15 minutes of hitting the pillow and reported waking less frequently.
Lack of sleep will kill you in the end so will lack of exercise. However, the deadliest choice of all is both a lack of exercise and a lack of sleep.
So choose sleep or exercise, but whatever you do, don’t choose something else over and above both of them.