Exercise or Sleep: Which Is More Important When I'm Tired?

exhausted woman lying on exercise ball
Photo credit: iStock Aired November 12, 2019

If you're constantly getting to bed late, should you still push yourself to wake up early in the morning and work out, or is it better to sleep in?

The answer might surprise you — and it comes from "The Sleep Doctor" himself!

It may actually be more beneficial for you to get enough sleep than to exercise when you're overtired, says sleep expert and author of The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus.

RELATED: Do I Really Need 8 Hours Of Sleep? A Sleep Doctor's Answer May Surprise You

"Sleep, when we look at it, is actually more important than exercise," Dr. Breus says, "from a bodily perspective."

Of course you should still get your exercise (exercise is one of the best ways to improve quality of sleep, after all!) but you may need to adjust the timing of your workouts based on your chronotype.

If you're a night person, or what Dr. Breus classifies as a "wolf" in his chronotype quiz, don't force yourself to wake up extra early just to work out in the morning.

"One of the things we know is when you're sleep deprived and you try to work out, workouts feel so much harder," he says.

If you also don't have the time to exercise at night, make the time during the day, the doc suggests.

"If you can get your rest in the morning, then maybe find little spots throughout the day where you can do small bits of exercise," Dr. Breus says. "Instead of having lunch inside, you go for a walk during lunch. Maybe you can do push-ups, sit-ups, things like that. There's a lot of different things you can do."

Motivation is a big factor when it comes to fitness, the doc points out. When you're fully rested, you're much more likely to have the motivation to actually get a good workout in. Makes sense to us!

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