Is Sleep More Important Than Exercise? What the Science Says

woman resting in sports clothes in the shadow

Are you the kind of person who likes to do bodyweight training in the morning to get moving? Or go running first thing on an empty stomach? Then we salute you! But maybe you are the type of person who likes to press the snooze button and enjoy a few more minutes in your cozy bed. Pretty soon the question becomes sleep or exercise – which one is more important?

STUDIES SHOW THAT SLEEP HELPS YOUR BODY REGENERATE

Seven to nine hours of sleep per night: this is the number recommended by experts at the National Institutes of Health to ensure long-term health. But the fact is that many people get far too little sleep as well as too little exercise; neither of these two situations is good for your health.

A good sleep…

…is extremely important for the body. Sleep maintains your mental and physical health, helps your body recover, and strengthens your immune system. If we were to judge based on this aspect alone, we would have to say that sleep is more important than exercise.

woman in sport clothes enjoys the sun outdoors

EARLY BIRD: THERE ARE MANY ADVANTAGES TO WORKING OUT IN THE MORNING

But not so fast! If you think you can just hit the snooze button from now on, then maybe you should read about the benefits of working out in the morning first:

  • When you work out outside, the daylight helps your body suppress the sleep hormone melatonin. This keeps you feeling alert and awake.
  • Do you have a hard time motivating yourself to work out after work? If you exercise in the morning, you can already cross one thing off your to-do list.
  • A study found that people who live in warm regions have more endurance in the morning.(1)
  • Your body releases endorphins, which puts you in a better mood for work.

Learn more about yourself and your sleep with the Sleep Better app.

LACK OF SLEEP ENCOURAGES WEIGHT GAIN

Did you know that too little sleep can cause weight gain? Experts have found that inadequate sleep can increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. This can lead to cravings for unhealthy, fatty foods. It’s a vicious cycle – because these kinds of foods make you feel sluggish and, in turn, less motivated to exercise.

Here are 4 more reasons why you might not be losing weight:

Did you know?

Another study has shown that people who sleep less than seven hours per night tend to exercise less than those who get more shuteye.(2) The result? The more you sleep, the more endurance you’ll have for your workout!

MORE EXERCISE – BETTER SLEEP

An article in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has shown that regular exercise can improve the quality of your sleep. Plus, most of the test subjects slept through the night. Another study examined the impact of exercising time on sleep quality.(3) What it found was that people who exercise in the morning tend to sleep better. The participants of the study who worked out at 7 a.m. in the morning were able to sleep longer and more deeply than those who worked out between 1 and 7 p.m.

black man sleeping in bed

SO WHICH ONE IS MORE IMPORTANT? SLEEP OR EXERCISE?

You can probably already guess the answer: enough sleep and healthy exercise are both important if you want to continue to stay healthy for a long time. Whether you want to do your workout in the morning or the evening is really up to you.

But the fact is that lack of sleep causes you to feel tired throughout the day and decreases your performance both at work and in the gym.

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Tina Sturm-Ornezeder Tina loves the written word, avocados & yoga and is very curious. She likes to discover new trends and report on them. View all posts by Tina Sturm-Ornezeder »

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