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You Asked: What's More Important — Sleep or Working Out?

You Asked: What's More Important — Sleep or Working Out?

You're asking and I'm answering . . .

Dear Fit,
I'm working hard to lose 20 pounds by eating healthier and exercising four days a week. The problem is, I have a full-time job and am also taking night classes, so the only time I can fit in my workouts is in the early morning. Since I don't slip into bed until midnight, I'm only getting about six hours of sleep a night. So what's more important — sleeping or working out?
—Drowsy Darcy

I'm sure many working women trying to balance their lives and their health are fighting this same battle. To hear my take on this,


Getting enough rest each night and exercising regularly are both important, so you don't want to choose one over the other. Sleep is especially necessary because not getting enough can lead to all sorts of health issues like heart problems, weight gain (which you're working so hard to avoid), and high blood pressure. My advice is to make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and instead of waking up early to do a long workout four days a week, try shorter workouts every day.

Also, try to find ways to incorporate moving into your schedule. Walk or bike to work, and hit the gym on your lunch break and then eat afterward at your desk. Keep a set of weights in your drawer and take a 10-minute break to do some strength training, or sit on a stationary bike while reading for your class. If you're not hitting the hay until midnight because you're studying, then hit the sheets earlier and plan to devote weekends to study time. If you're still finding it hard to fit it all in, maybe consider giving up one of your classes, or cut back on hours at your job. Aside from not getting enough sleep or being able to exercise, having too much on your plate and stressing about it isn't good for your health either.

I am sure many of you have experienced this time crunch and if you have any advice or encouraging words, please leave them in the comments section below.


Join The Conversation
sewpassion sewpassion 9 years
Thanks for all the great advice everyone! Just starting an internship here in a couple weeks so I will be putting the lunch workout routine to the test!
cali_student cali_student 9 years
Oh I should mention, I don't really do much cardio during the week - mostly weights. I don't sweat as much doing weights so I don't have to wash my hair afterwards. That saves me a lot of time, and on the weekends I don't want to be indoors anyway when I can run, canoe or bike outside.
cali_student cali_student 9 years
I'm in the exact same boat and I tried an early morning workout once and never went back. 1. I find my deepest sleep is in the early morning, so that's not the sleep I want to sacrifice anyway. 2. Working out while sleepy just made me less motivated and not able to do as much as I usually could, so it wasn't efficient. 3. I can't sacrifice the extra time to bike to work/school and back during the week, but I always bike to school and back on the weekends to meet up for group projects or go to the library. 4. If I start feeling sleepy at my desk at work I take a break by going down and back up the stairs. 5. I eat breakfast at my desk, do some work, workout about 45 min at lunch (alternating weights/cardio days), take a quick shower and make a sandwich at the sandwich bar at the caf at work. 6. Fri evenings, Sat and Sun mornings are strictly dedicated to exercise/fun of some kind so I don't go crazy. :)
OrganizedMommy OrganizedMommy 9 years
sewpassion - It's possible to work out at lunch, but you have to be really disciplined about it. Last year - with a newborn at home, a more-than-fulltime job, and a husband gone during the week working in a different city, I found that my lunch hour was the only possible time for a workout. But, I absolutely needed to keep it to 1 hour. Here's how I did it. Another woman at work who also just had a baby agreed to be my workout buddy (this kept me accountable to not ditch, and to make sure I left on time rather than finishing "just one more email"). We walked to the gym (10 min). That served as our warm-up. Changed - 5 min. Worked out for 20 min (treadmill, bike, or weights). Showered and changed (15 min). Bought a smoothie at the gym snack bar. Walked back and drank our smoothies (10 min). We did it three times per week. We both lost our baby weight within 4 months of doing this. It worked awesome, and we didn't feel like we were taking time away from our families to do it.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
Lately, that's been me too...I have been working a lot of hours lately and have been getting only about 6 hours of sleep a night. I think if you're getting any fewer than 6 hours a night, you need to cut back on your workouts to get at least 6 hours of sleep in.
risqueredhead risqueredhead 9 years
I'm really grumpy if I don't get enough sleep, so I"m going to go with sleep.
Silverlining10 Silverlining10 9 years
I think people who exercise during their lunch hour can only squeeze in about 40 minutes of exercise, then take the next twenty minutes to shower. I had a supervisor that would do that, then grab a salad on her way back into the office. It's been studied that lack of sleep increases hunger by messing with the hormones in the brain that tell us when we're hungry and to stop eating. So, sleep is very important. Plus, your body needs to recover and rest, so even if you're not getting two hours of exercise a day, I would say, never sacrifice sleep to lose a few pounds.
g1amourpuss g1amourpuss 9 years
If I'm too tired it makes it so hard for me to exercise. ..Great advice! I get so stumped about what to do also.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I agree -- sleep comes first. You can't successfully exercise if you're fatigued or sleep-deprived. You would be setting yourself up to fail. I speak from experience.
OHmeetsBK OHmeetsBK 9 years
sewpassion, I always wonder about working out at a lunch break/middle of the work day as well. I feel like I wouldn't have enough time to get in the workout, shower and become work presentable and actually eat lunch. I tend to have lazy tendencies, though. Can someone out there who does this explain their routine?
sewpassion sewpassion 9 years
I've always been curious about the working out on your lunch hour option. Does anyone shower afterwards? Or do you just spend the rest of the day feeling and looking gross? I know when I do at least 10 minutes of cardio I get pretty sweaty. Any suggestions? Because this seems almost too good to be true!
forlikeever forlikeever 9 years
Sleep, sleep, sleep! It will keep you less stressed and less inclined to overeat.. for me it's the less I sleep, the worse I feel, the more I eat - not a good combo! Instead, the more I sleep, the better and more energized I feel, and the more active I am able and inclined to be throughout the day.. good luck!
pixelhaze pixelhaze 9 years
For me, the most important aspect of losing weight is getting enough sleep. I could be eating perfectly but if I didn't get enough sleep the pounds would not budge. Not sure if that's just me, but since I noticed it and began focusing on getting enough sleep I've lost the weight and kept it off.
littleblackninja littleblackninja 9 years
I think sleep is more important in this instance. Eat right and get enough sleep. Fit in exercise when you can.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
sleep is so overrated! ok, i know that it's not true but for myself - i can't manage to fit it all in - so i have to sacrifice somewhere. i used to try to workout before work and that didin't work so well since there are days that i'm an insomniac and can't sleep. when i finally do nod off it's like 4am and getting up at 6 for the gym is counter productive. i have learned the luxury of working out during my lunch - and that's worked wonders so i work out in the middle of the day and then try to sneak in another workout after work.
lizs lizs 9 years
I was in a similar position for a long time, and I limped along by doing two long, tough workouts on the weekend and 20 minutes of Pilates on two other days, along with cutting wayyyy back to my minimum calorie requirements. I ended up having to drop some my second (part-time, evening) job in order to focus on my health and have enough time to sleep. There really wasn't a way for me to make more time in my day, and just taking the stairs at work, parking far away when running errands, and all those other ways to squeeze in more activity didn't ever make much of a difference since I've always been pretty active.
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