The Harmonious Relationship Between Sleep and Exercise

couple sitting up and stretching in bed
More exercise means better sleep.

by Lindsay Tigar

Among the list of adult responsibilities you know you should be prioritizing, getting an adequate amount of sleep is usually one you let slip. But sleep is a vital factor when it comes to health. Without rebooting overnight, you miss out on some serious benefits. And depending on when you hit up the gym, you might be keeping your body from getting the downtime it needs. Here's why it's important to have a happy relationship between sleep and exercise.

Without Sleep, Your Body Suffers

Were you annoyed at your mother when she wouldn't let you play video games for hours when you were sick? As always, mom knows best: Sleep can help kick that pesky cough to the curb and without it, you could get sick. As one study found, those who sleep for less than seven hours a night are almost three times more likely to contract the common cold than those who sleep eight hours or more. It's not just the amount of sleep either, but the quality. Deep, uninterrupted sleep is important for your health, even if it's for fewer hours.

Don't work out when you're sick though! The onset of an itchy throat or a foggy mind could indicate illness, so it's better to skip the gym and heal — and keep those around you from catching what you've got.

A.M. Workouts = Better P.M. Sleep

Does the idea of a 6 a.m. wake-up call make you want to cringe? Getting into the routine of exercising before the sun is out can be overwhelming, but the National Sleep Foundation says it's best. This is because working out causes your body temperature to rise for an extended period of time, which can make falling sleeping more difficult for some. However, some folks are unaffected, so try it out to see what your body prefers.

According to a study noted by the National Sleep Foundation, those who consistently exercise 150 minutes a week not only feel more energized during the day but they sleep significantly better at night. All of that physical activity helps you feel tired by the time you hit the hay, making that 6 a.m. alarm sound not to bad after all.

Inadequate Sleep Is Bad for Your Heart

When you're asleep, your body schedules meetings with all of your organs, much like a boss would set up a time to chat with you about a project. During this time, your heart, your brain and your lungs all get a refresher and a break, allowing them to get the relaxation they need to keep working together cohesively. When you deprive your body of this crucial period, you run the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, explains theNational Sleep Foundation. Especially if you're a cardio junkie, you want to ensure your heart is always given a little love and rest.

Poor Sleep Might Lead to Weight Gain

Sleep and exercise matter. A lack of rest can add more than dark circles under your eyes, but extra pounds, too. One study found that people who slept less than six hours a night were more likely to be overweight or obese. Those who subscribed to the Sleeping Beauty ritual? They had the lowest relative body fat in the pool.

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.