What’s better: twenty winks or twenty push ups?

You roll out of bed, bleary-eyed, to the dulcet tones of your alarm clock. After the initial shock and miniature heart attack, you remember your planned gym session for this morning. Running through the list of excuses in your mind, you land on one that sounds promising – do the health benefits of sleep outweigh that of exercise?

The sleep-exercise cycle

When you ask the experts, they’ll tell you that both are essential for healthy living, and they’re right. Sleep is important for exercise just as much as exercise is important for sleep.

According to a recent paper on the effect of exercise on sleep, having less than seven hours per night can actively eat into your gym session. Not only does it increase your fatigue and lower your ability to exert yourself, lack of sleep can have a significant effect on your motivation to even get out of bed.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling restless and having trouble sleeping, an early workout might just solve your problems. Research shows that ‘regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep’. In fact, earlier workouts have been proven to give you better sleep cycles than later ones – having adrenaline pumping through your body can keep you up at night.

The simple answer is that you should try to maintain a routine that ensures you have proper amounts of sleep and exercise.

But which one is better for you?

Of course, situations arise where there's too little time to do both, and when you’re feeling exhausted in the morning and have to choose, which one is dispensable?

Just like air and water, sleep is a fundamental need. Although you can forgo a gym session for a period of time, missing sleep in the same way will start to significantly affect your physical and emotional health.

Sleep deprivation can cause a whole range of negative health effects, from increasing the risk of disease, injuries and weight gain, while an adequate amount of sleep can balance hormones, stimulate the release of endorphins and repair any damage done to your body.

Not even an intense, sweat-inducing workout can beat the benefits of seven hours of sleep. But don’t treat that as an endorsement to constantly hit the snooze button! Healthy sleeping involves a lot more than just sleeping through those few precious minutes.

Fixing bad habits

It’s not healthy if you’re constantly choosing between sleep and exercise every morning, in the same way it’s not healthy if you’re choosing between skipping breakfast and eating an entire cake. It’s important to understand how much sleep and exercise you need, and plan your routine around that

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need about 30 minutes of exercise per day. No matter how busy you are, there’s always time to work that into your schedule

If you’re struggling with the entire concept of an early workout, start slow. Try low intensity walks or stretches in the morning to begin with, and build up intensity once you’re used to it. When you’re on holiday, work out what time your body naturally wakes up. That gives you a good indication of how much sleep you need and the best time to get out of bed.

Sleep and exercise are important for maintaining your work and personal life. If you’re concerned about the effect of sleep deprivation on you or your employees’ health, talk to Gallagher Bassett, the experts in personal injury.

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