Registered Nurse and Clinical Sleep Educator, Better Sleep Council Spokesperson
Trouble sleeping? Too tired to work out? No energy during the day? You’re not alone, according to a recent study by the Better Sleep Council. More than half of Americans claim to be “poor sleepers.” So why is America sleeping so poorly? Stress is one contributing factor – along with increased screen time, alcohol consumption, and, you got it, a lack of exercise.
We all know that regular exercise is one of the best things we can do to improve our health. But did you know that sufficient exercise is also one of the best things we can do to improve our sleep?
We all know that sleep and exercise – along with diet – comprise the three pillars of good health and wellbeing. But did you realize that sleep is the foundation of the three pillars? Without sufficient sleep, we are less likely to maintain a healthy diet or weight and get the exercise we need for optimal functioning.
Let’s look closely at the relationship between sleep and exercise. Of those poor sleepers we mentioned earlier, 22% say they tried exercising in the past but stopped – compared to 74% of excellent sleepers who have been exercising for more than a year.
Simply put, exercise helps us sleep while sufficient sleep makes us more likely to exercise. A 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests improving sleep may encourage exercise participation.
In a study of 119 chronic pain patients, study subjects participated in more physical activity following a better night of sleep, indicating that improvement in nighttime sleep may serve to promote daytime physical activity in this population and others. In a related study, Stone et al. found maintaining sufficient sleep throughout the week is associated with increased physical activity in children.
Granted – some of us may lack the willpower to get moving – we feel overworked, unmotivated, tired, overscheduled, and stressed. We say that we don’t have time or are just too exhausted to think about exercising before or after a long day of work (contrary to popular belief, evening exercise is not a no-no), taking care of children, or any of the myriad of things that consume our daily lives. But keep in mind that adequate sleep improves mood, motivation, focus, outlook, energy levels, time management, and our overall performance – all of which contribute to plenty of willpower to get up and go! Just remember not to skimp on sleep in order to make time for exercise. With sufficient sleep, we get more done and do it better.
Take the first step by making sufficient sleep a daily, top priority, and talk with your healthcare provider about an exercise program that’s right for you. In no time, you will see for yourself that sleep and exercise are the perfect pair! (Did we mention that you are much more likely to have a healthy appetite and metabolism and enjoy healthy weight management with improved sleep and exercise?). Truly a win-win-win!
So if your willpower is in need of a boost, see if some sleep power doesn’t do the trick. Then, on your mark, get sleep and exercise—and watch your quality of life improve.