Can Exercise Make Up for Sleep Deprivation?
Modern life is busy. Most people are in go-mode from the time they wake up until just a few hours before they go to bed. Work and school, friends and family, personal hobbies and goals,… the days are already simply too short to squeeze it all in. Then you need to make time for two of the most important things that keep you healthy: exercise and sleep. Experts recommend that you sleep for 7-9 hours every night. Too often, we cut into that sleep time to make it all work, with many opting to only get 4-6 hours of sleep each night. Can sticking to your exercise routine make up for all the sleep deprivation?
Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek
The Relationship between Exercise and Sleep
On top of that, exercise can increase energy levels throughout the day, helping you fend off that ‘daytime grogginess’ that can set in, especially during the afternoon and early evening.
There are indirect positive influences that exercise has on your sleep as well. By exercising regularly and maintaining a lower body weight, you will sleep more comfortably, avoiding poor sleep. You can also potentially keep things like sleep apnea that keep you from falling into a deep sleep in check.
Exercise and Sleep Deprivation
Everything so far shows that exercise can greatly benefit the quality of your sleep. But is it enough to make up for sleep deprivation?
Unfortunately, the answer seems to still be no, for the most part. A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology determined that intense cardiovascular exercise can counteract some cardiovascular issues that arise when you start falling behind on sleep. It was noted, however, that this balancing act only works up to a point.
It should be noted as well that the exercise required for these potential benefits is vigorous. At least 150 minutes a week of intense activity will help to offset the sleep you would be missing, but light activity below those accumulated 150 minutes won’t do much.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Now that we’ve looked a little bit into the science, how exactly does all that affect you in your daily life as you train for events like the Berkeley Half Marathon? In my opinion, sleep shouldn’t be compromised on whatsoever. I find myself much more prepared and willing to take on the day after a full night’s sleep, regardless of how much running or gym time I put in throughout the day.
However, as I discussed at the beginning, life is busy and not always accommodating to our preferred timeline. Even with my firm opinion on the importance of sleep, there are nights I can’t or don’t get the recommended amount. The science suggests that regular exercise will help offset those rare late nights.
Therefore, if you need to occasionally shorten your sleep by an hour to get in your training, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if sleep keeps getting away from you for long enough, it will probably be more beneficial to focus on getting those 7-9 hours of sleep until your schedule becomes less time-consuming.
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is to try and achieve both consistently. It is amazing how good you can feel when you get extra sleep every night. When you add exercise, you get on a very good path towards achieving your health and fitness life goals.