Exercise or sleep… that is the question.
Out of the four different types of stress, time stress pervades most of our daily life activities. Both exercise and sleep play the trade-off game.
The December 2017 Medibank National Stress Survey found that for the first-time sleep deprivation was the #1 stressor in Australia with 44% of Australians’ reporting lack of quality sleep was playing havoc in their life.
Who isn’t a little sleep-deprived sometime, or maybe, most of the time? Who doesn’t need more exercise? Who has time for it all?
In a blog I wrote a couple of years ago titled The Power of Sleep pointed out that research over the past ten years is ever increasingly showing that seven to eight hours’ sleep a night is required to keep us as healthy as possible. In a landmark paper published in 2015 by Ding et al from Sydney University on Traditional and Emerging Lifestyle Risk Behaviours of 231,048 Australians between 2006 and 2009, long sleep (over 9 hours a night)was found to be very unhealthy, where-as, short sleep (less than 5 hours a night) only had a minor effect on a persons’ health. People who are short sleepers the authors found, usually exercise daily, whereas long sleepers don’t have time to exercise usually.
The answer is a bit complicated. According to experts, it primarily boils down to just how tired you are. To make the best decision, you need to assess your recent sleep history and determine whether you’re merely feeling constantly tied or you’re definitely sleep-deprived. Check these ideas out.
Dr. Phyllis Zee, Chief of Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says, “Getting the recommended seven hours a night is important for metabolic function, weight regulation and [brain health]. Inadequate amount or quality of sleep is associated with both short- and long-term poor health measures, increasing the risk for heart disease, memory problems, and diabetes.”
Consistent physical exercise yields similar benefits and, just like not getting enough sleep, failing to exercise can have serious health consequences. Not only that, “there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep quality and physical activity,” Zee says. “Exercise can improve deep sleep and sleeping better enhances the ability to exercise the next day.”
Because both are so critical for optimum health, experts hesitate to say one is more important than the other.However, there is a key differentiator between the two: “We have a biological need to sleep — it’s a behaviour we must do every day,” says Christopher Kline, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center. “Physical activity, on the other hand, is definitely beneficial for health, but being less active for a few days here and there doesn’t have the same negative health impact as skimping on sleep for consecutive days.”
If you’re really sleep-deprived, meaning you’ve slept too few hours or slept poorly for consecutive nights, you should choose more sleep. Otherwise, exercise is the best choice.
“Thirty minutes of exercise is more impactful health-wise than 30 minutes of extra sleep if you have slept for the optimal time period,” Kline says.
Quality sleep enables us to learn faster, remember more, and make a better impression on clients and colleagues.
Here’s a suggestion: Plan for sleep like you plan for a meeting.
When we reframe sleep as part of our workday (instead of something we do when work is over), it’s a lot easier to get to bed on time.
Remember, sleep isn’t something you selfishly do for yourself. It’s an investment in your future performance and wellbeing.
Also, plan for exercise, make it a diary entry. Maybe a personal trainer you pay will keep you honest with yourself.
In my 30 years as a business and personal coach and mentor, the underlying thing that has been paramount in seeing my clients move from ordinary to excellent is that a key issue for each person is having a solid balance of both exercise and sleep daily. So many successful and healthy people thank a personal coach for supporting them in achieving this balance.