The Intimate Relationship Between Fitness and Sleep


We understand the importance of working out. However, we must not forget that what we do outside of the gym is just as essential. What we eat, drink, and especially how well we sleep also affect our health. Sleep is essential for exercise to operate. Whether it’s for general health, toning up and increasing muscle mass, enhancing endurance, or any of the other goals listed above, sleep is required.

Sleep aids in the recovery of our bodies, which helps us to conserve energy and improve our muscles after training. The body produces growth hormones when we get enough good sleep. These hormones stimulate our growth and development during our childhood and puberty, and they aid in the maintenance of muscle tone as we age.

How Does Exercise Impact Sleep?

There are several advantages to regularly working out. A decreased risk of diseases such as cancer and diabetes enhanced physical capacity, and a greater quality of life are just a few of them. Certain people can benefit from physical activity as well. Pregnant women who exercise regularly are less likely to gain a lot of weight or experience postpartum depression, and those who exercise regularly in their 80s and 90s are less likely to suffer a fall-related injury.

Exercising may also help you sleep better. Adults who exercised moderately to vigorously had improved sleep quality, namely by decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep and lengthening the amount of time they lie awake in bed during the night. Exercise regularly can also assist with reducing daytime drowsiness, as well as the need for sleep medications in certain individuals.

In addition, physical activity may have an impact on sleep in subtle ways. Moderate-to-vigorous exercise can lower the risk of excessive weight gain, which makes someone with OSA less likely to experience symptoms. Obesity is a factor in roughly 60% of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea cases.

Is It Bad to Work Out Before Going to Bed?

Over the years, the debate over whether exercise in the hours before bedtime contributes to poor-quality sleep has been hotly contested. It has been shown that training for three hours or more within three hours of bedtime can reduce sleep duration.

Because it increases your heart rate, body temperature, and adrenaline levels, intense exercise in the three hours leading up to sleep might decrease sleep duration. However, some researchers have suggested that doing exercise before bed may not be harmful.

According to one study, most individuals who exercise after 8 p.m. or later fall asleep quickly, get adequate deep sleep and wake up refreshed. Respondents who exercised between 4 and 8 p.m. reported similar percentages in each area, suggesting that late-night exercise may be beneficial for some people.

According to another study, people who exercise in the evening have more slow-wave sleep and a longer latency for rapid eye movement (REM) sleep than those who do not. In addition, they experienced less stage 1 (or light) sleep.

However, while a core temperature increase – which may be caused by strenuous exercise – was linked to reduced sleep efficiency and longer time awake after sleep onset, researchers also discovered that a higher core temperature was linked to worse sleep quality. While exercising before bedtime may not be inherently damaging, vigorous activity in the hour preceding bed can reduce sleep efficiency and total sleep duration.

What Affects the Timing of Sleep and Exercise?

Is it true that exercise before bedtime is a big no-no? There are two after-effects of exercise that may have an impact on sleep. After a workout, the body produces endorphins, which signal the body to stay awake. After exercise, this can last anywhere from one to two hours.

The core temperature of the body rises when you exercise, signalling the body to be awake. The impact of this can last up to 30 minutes after your workout before your core temperature begins to decline. In rare cases, a drop in core temperature might cause drowsiness, which may be an excellent thing to have when utilized correctly.

It is in the morning when you are least hungry. Hence, if you want to work out for thirty to sixty minutes, get started at least three hours before going to sleep. Of course, there are human variations to each of these rules, as some of us can sleep straight after exercise with no problem. However, if you believe that exercise affects your sleep more than others, the three-hour guideline may be a good starting point for you to test.

How Does Sleep Affect Your Exercise??

The effect of sleep on our physical activity levels has not been investigated as extensively, and most of the research has focused on differences in physical activity between persons with sleep problems and those who are healthy. Most, however, have shown that individuals who have disturbed sleep are less active than those with healthy sleep cycles. Individuals who have sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, are less likely to exercise during the day.

Adults who suffer from insomnia are more passive than individuals who do not have the condition. The same is true for individuals with OSA and other types of sleep-disordered breathing, although excess weight may also be a contributing factor in this group.

According to one research, changes in sleep quality, latency, and efficiency at night may be used to predict physical activity levels. For example, a 30-minute increase in sleep onset was linked to a 1-minute decrease in exercise duration the next day according to one study.

Another study found that individuals who prefer morning or evening activity may be more likely to engage in physical activity. Individuals who get up early or are “early birds” are more inclined to exercise than those that sleep late or are more active during the day. In addition, certain research has indicated that exercise may gradually change a person’s diurnal preference and even shift their circadian rhythms.

Even though several investigations have established a link between good sleep and healthy physical activity levels, there has yet to be any evidence that improved sleep leads to an increase in physical activity levels.

Does Getting Better Sleep Help My Workout?

The short answer is yes. The better rested you are, the better your mind and body perform, which includes at the gym. Adequate sleep has been shown to help people keep to their exercise programs and exercise the next day. The more sleep time participants in this research had, the more likely they were to follow through with their fitness plan.

Getting enough sleep not only allows you to work out harder and longer, but it may also increase your drive and strength so that you can maximize your workout while also making you more efficient and prepared for it.

On the other hand, not getting enough sleep may make physical activity feel more difficult. Sleep deprivation has no effect on your cardiovascular and respiratory responses to exercise, as well as your aerobic and anaerobic performance capacity, muscular strength, or electromechanical responses.

That indicates that your biomechanics don’t support the claim that sleep reduces your physical abilities, but you will fatigue faster on less sleep, making it feel more difficult to work out to your full potential. After only one night of sleep deprivation, treadmill endurance performance drops significantly.

That isn’t to say that acquiring the necessary 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night will instantly turn you into a speed demon or a sports phenomenon. Sleep will not always make you quicker, stronger, or improve your times or performance. Rather, sleep deprivation has been associated with physiological responses such as autonomic nervous system imbalances, which are comparable to overtraining symptoms such as sore muscles and an increased risk of injuries that might stymie your performance.

How Can You Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

  • On the weekends, keep to the same bedtime and wake-up time, even if you’re not at your other job. This might help your body’s clock adjust and allow you to fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Make a soothing bedtime routine part of your routine.
  • Make your bed a place for only two activities.
  • Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
  • Exercise daily.
  • To establish the circumstances you require for sleep, design your bedroom. The room should be cool, at about 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Noises and light should be removed from the area. Consider using blackout curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, fans, and other gadgets.
  • Make certain your mattress is both pleasant and supportive. The average life span for a high-quality mattress is 9 or 10 years.
  • Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunshine in the morning. This will keep your circadian rhythms in line.
  • Avoid drinking, smoking, and having heavy meals in the evening. Alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee might all disrupt sleep.
  • If you can’t sleep, go somewhere peaceful, and return to your bedroom.

Can Exercise Make Your Sleep Worse?

When it comes to sleep and exercise, most studies show a lot of variances depending on the participants’ ages, health, and lifestyles as well as the sort and intensity of activity they engaged in.

Many of the findings appear to demonstrate that as participants get older, the more beneficial exercise is for improved sleep. However, it may be because younger individuals are more likely to have a regular exercise program, be more active in their daily lives and jobs, or engage in more intense exercises.

Many studies suggest that the intensity of the activity makes a big difference, with researchers discovering that moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, is important for good sleep. High-intensity workouts, particularly for athletes, have been found to make sleep worse at the other end of the spectrum.

The frequency of the activity is also affected by the intensity. A single weekly 3-hour session may be preferable to 30 minutes every day. Sleep deprivation can be difficult to achieve overnight, but it may take some time for benefits to manifest. Although it’s worth noting that this approach takes a little longer than the previous ones to show results. Interestingly, research revealed that the reason for the workout was even more significant, with participants who exercised simply for fun sleeping better than those who worked out

The length of the activity, too, maybe a consideration. Some research shows that going for a walk during the day might help to reset the circadian rhythm, but others suggest that performing some light exercise, such as yoga, before bedtime might assist people in relaxing and unwinding ready for sleep.

Is It Better to Work Out in the Morning or Sleep an Hour Later?

How do you prioritize getting enough sleep and exercising on a regular basis, when both are important? You don’t want to be in that position because you need them both. However, if that perfect balance isn’t always attainable. Many professionals feel that unless your sleep is almost always good in terms of quality and quantity, sleep should be the top priority.

If you slept for seven to eight hours the night before, get up and exercise! But if you’ve been getting less than six hours of sleep most nights that week, you should enjoy that last hour. Even if you don’t exercise, skipping it is probably going to result in a poor workout.

“Choose sleep!” if you were up all night the night before, and “choose peace and quiet!” if you couldn’t get any shuteye. After an all-nighter (or just a few hours of sleep), your body needs rest more than ever.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t getting the required seven to eight hours of sleep each night, you should reconsider your schedule so that you can make sure you get it — and then you must figure out how to fit in your normal exercise without sacrificing sleep. You can’t have one without the other; they’re mutually necessary for you to go with.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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