Should You Prioritise Sleep or Exercise?

·2-min read
Photo credit: Rowan Fee
Photo credit: Rowan Fee

Picture the scene: you've finally managed to doze off after a terrible night's sleep, when your 6am alarm alerts you that you’re wanted at the gym. What now? Do you drift off back to sleep, knowing that a lengthier lie-in is what you require, or is a dose of exercise the better option? We delved into the scientific literature to find out whether sleep or exercise is what you really need.

The Numbers

12% – The increase in your risk of an early death if you regularly get less than six hours’ sleep, reports the scientific journal Sleep.

40% – The drop in all-cause mortality for people who do 150 minutes of cardio and two strength sessions a week, says BMJ.

Mutual Benefits

Sleep

Increasing sleep from 6½ to 10 hours per night can enhance athletic performance, including quicker sprint times, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Exercise

Regular exercise improves sleep duration and quality, says The Sleep Council. Finish your session at least two hours before bedtime to avoid a spike in endorphins.

Light Sleeper

Sleep

Starve your body of sleep and you’re more likely to indulge in late-night high-carb snacks than eight-hour sleepers, says the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.

Exercise

It’s all in the timing. According to the International Journal Of Obesity, people who work out before noon lose more weight than those who exercise after 3pm.

The Cost

Sleep

The estimated cost of lack of sleep to the UK economy, reports The Sleep Council. WFH? A lunchtime power nap can improve cognitive function.

Exercise

The estimated cost of physical inactivity to the NHS. After each meal, aim for a 10-minute walk – it helps to rebalance your blood sugar.

Extra Energy

Sleep

A study shows that an hour of sleep debt can take up to four nights to undo. Flagging? Creatine has been shown to reboot brain energy in the sleep-deprived.

Exercise

The University of Western Ontario found that 20 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking briskly, boosts cognition in the same way as a cup of coffee.

The MH Verdict: Sleep Wins!

The two are entwined – sleep bestows effective exercise and exercise bestows good sleep.
But heading to work exhausted after a sunrise kettlebell class will compromise mental energy and immune health. Hit fewer than 6½ hours’ kip? Press snooze – and train tomorrow instead.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting