Both sleep and exercise need to be priorities in a person’s life to obtain and maintain optimal health. If you want to feel good in life, it’s important to invest in both activities.
So… what is a person to do when the alarm goes off and they have to decide between sleeping for an extra hour or jumping out of bed to get those reps in?
Today we’ll look at how the different scenarios can play out, and which decision is best.
What is your chronotype?
The first thing to understand is what your chronotype is.
Your chronotype (not a scientific word) is what hours your internal clock compels you to keep. In other words – does your internal clock spur you to be an early bird or a night owl? Usually people fall clearly into one of the two categories. There are those who easily go to bed by 10pm and wake up with the sun in a chipper mood and ready to face day. Others, of course, love to stay awake well past midnight and equally love a good sleep in.
Are you energized in the morning?
Whether or not you can hop out of bed full of beans in the morning will partly depend on when your most wakeful and productive hours are. If, no matter what, it is nearly impossible to get out of bed, even though you know that you’ll feel so good, then it might be best to get that work out in after work or in the evening.
Especially if you are going through a spell where something is keeping you awake at night – perhaps your kid is having a rough sleep patch, or your neighbours are partying and disrupting your sleep, or work is stressing you to the point of anxiety – getting the extra rest in the morning might be the best decision for you.
Are you struggling with sleep?
On the other hand, if your sleep health is in bad shape (in other words, you are sleeping poorly and you can’t remember the last time you woke up feeling well-rested), then maybe it will be helpful to re-set your sleep clock with an early morning workout. This will give you a blast of endorphins to start your day. Then by the time the evening rolls around, you are going to be nice and tired.
If you can keep this up for a week or two, you might notice drastic improvements in your sleep health and overall well-being. In this case, what might seem like a sacrifice in your immediate sleep time will actually pay off in the long run.
However! If you are the type of person to continually sacrifice sleep time to “get it all done” during the day, then eventually something is going to have to give. And it can’t be sleep forever! Your body needs sleep as much as it needs fuel and exercise, and it will demand it sooner or later, perhaps by succumbing to a sickness and then being forced into rest.
Exercise vs. Sleep
Instead of choosing between morning exercise and proper sleep, it’s better to cut down on things that aren’t of utmost priority. Reconsider working extra hours, unnecessary activities, that extra hour of screen time, or other things that take away from sleep and also don’t contribute to your betterment. Or try reducing the amount of time spent on working out – is there a more efficient way of getting movement into your day (taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Committing to 10 minutes of exercise for every hour that you work, for example).
As you can see, there’s no straightforward answer and the answer will vary person to person. If you find yourself in the unenviable position that you have to choose between sleep and exercise, the best way forward is to look at other areas of your life and find out if there are other things you can cut.
While many people think that sleep can be sacrificed for other things in life, the opposite is actually true. Being well rested allows your body to function at its best. Meaning that you have more energy for the rest of things in your life, whether that’s exercise, work, or relationships.
It’s all about balance – sleep and exercise should be equal priorities. But how much, how often, and when will depend on a variety of other factors in your life.