Exercise and Sleep: How Your Sleep Impacts Your Gym Time

Behind Every Great Amateur Athlete

When your alarm goes off in the morning, it can be difficult to get out of bed if the only reward is fitting in an early morning workout. We often cut into our sleeping hours to add exercise to our already busy schedules, but despite the numerous physical and mental benefits of exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep is also vital to your health.

The relationship between sleep and exercise is a tricky one – sacrifices made for one can often affect the quality of the other – but how exactly do sleep and exercise interact? To investigate further, we surveyed over 1,000 people (936 of who worked out regularly) regarding their exercise and sleep habits and found some interesting results. Keep reading to see how your workouts, or lack thereof, could be impacting your night’s rest.

Losing Sleep, Losing Focus

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Losing sleep can have detrimental consequences on your health, causing both cognitive and physical deficits like trouble thinking and poor balance. Naturally, the effects caused by lack of sleep can carry over during workouts. Even top athletes make sure to incorporate sleep into their strict training regimens to aid in preparation, performance, and recovery. But for those who hit the gym at least once a week, more than 46 percent of people reported their focus being negatively impacted by lack of sleep. Stamina was the next aspect of workouts impacted, with 43.5 percent reporting a decrease when getting less sleep than usual. Surprisingly, people who work out said they could lose an average of 82.4 minutes of sleep before seeing negative effects in their exercise performance. While the effects may not be obvious in workouts, losing just an hour of sleep throws off your circadian rhythm and can lead you to eat roughly 200 more calories the following day.

More Work for More Rest

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The relationship between sleep and exercise is not one-sided; rather, it is symbiotic. While sleep can affect the quality of a workout, working out also affects the quantity and quality of sleep. Those who didn’t work out at all reported getting the least amount of sleep per night, with an average of only 6.6 hours. As workout frequency increased, so too did hours of sleep, with those working out five or more times per week sleeping an average of 7.1 hours each night.

Working out isn’t only tied to sleep quantity, though. The more satisfied they were with their sleep, the more workouts they averaged per week. Those who were not at all satisfied with their sleep averaged only 2.8 workouts per week. On the other hand, respondents who were extremely satisfied with their sleep averaged 4.5 workouts per week.

The effect exercise has on sleep is so strong that moderately exercising for just two and half hours per week can help people suffering from both insomnia and sleep apnea increase their quantity and quality of sleep.

Is Working Out Worth It?

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Unlike some aspects of health, the benefits of exercise on sleep quality don’t take time to kick in. According to our respondents, the effects can be seen almost immediately. Of the people who reported working out regularly, 45.7 percent said their sleep was “very good” or “excellent” on the days they worked out. Comparatively, respondents reported diminished sleep quality on the days they didn’t work out, with 50.9 percent rating their sleep as “fair” or “poor” on those days.

The reported quality of sleep may be linked to the increased time spent in deep sleep due to exercise. Not only is deep sleep responsible for solidifying memories, but it is also when cells regenerate, muscles are aided, and tissues and bones grow and repair – benefits that can improve exercise performance.

Drowsy Difficulties

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Difficulty falling and staying asleep are some of the most common problems Americans face – 1 in 4 develop insomnia each year. The good news is 75 percent of those recover and don’t develop chronic sleeping troubles. Of course, there are numerous routes to employ to try to speed up the time it takes to fall asleep, from counting sheep to using a sleeping aid, but it turns out exercise is a quick and healthy way to cut down on tossing and turning. Respondents who reported working out five or more times per week only had a problem with their sleep an average of 6.2 days per month. On the other hand, those who didn’t work out at all had problems with their sleep an average of 11.4 days per month.

Quality Over Quantity

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Regardless of differences in our day-to-day lives, we all crave a good night’s sleep. As with ease of falling asleep, the more workouts people got in each week the more likely they were to report getting quality sleep. Of the people who reported not working out at all, 68.8 percent said they didn’t get quality sleep most nights. That percentage dropped below half for those who worked out once or twice each week. Of those who worked out at least five times per week, 73 percent reported getting quality sleep most nights. While we found exercise to increase the quantity of sleep, increasing the amount of quality sleep can have even greater effects on health. It’s not always about how much you get, but the quality of what you’re getting.

The Secret to a Good Night’s Rest

Getting enough quality sleep can be a struggle for many, and the lack of it negatively impacts us in numerous ways. Regular workouts will not only boost your physical and mental health but can also prepare your body for a better night’s sleep. A good night’s rest doesn’t simply come from hitting the gym, though. The comfort of your sleep quarters is crucial to catching zzz’s, and it all starts with your mattress.

No matter how many workouts you do per week, the wrong mattress can keep you up at night. At Best Mattress Brand, we are here to help you choose the best mattress so your nights aren’t spent tossing and turning. Whether you suffer from back pain or are interested in which mattress is best for side sleepers, we have the answers for you.

Sources

Methodology

We conducted a survey of 1,017 people about their sleep and exercise habits. 54.2 percent of our respondents were women, and 45.8 percent were men. The average age of respondents was 36.9 with a standard deviation of 11.9.

Respondents were asked how many days per week they worked out. In our visualization of the data, we grouped their responses into the following:

  • 0 workouts per week
  • 1–2 workouts per week
  • 3–4 workouts per week
  • 5+ workouts per week

Parts of this project include calculated averages. These were calculated to exclude outliers in the data set. This was done by finding the initial average and standard deviation of the data. Then, we multiplied the standard deviation by two and added that amount to the initial average. Any data points above that sum were then excluded. When calculating the average specifically for nights per month that people had trouble falling asleep, the standard deviation was multiplied by three.

T-tests were performed to see if there was a statistically significant difference between variables (p < 0.05). We found a statistically significant difference between the nightly hours of sleep of people who work out zero times per week and people who work out 5 or more times per week.

Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients were computed to assess the relationship between several sets of variables. We found that the number of nights per month that someone experiences difficulty sleeping was negatively associated (e.g., correlated with) days an individual works out per week (r = -.171, p = .000, p < 0.05). Hours of sleep per night was positively correlated with days an individual works out per week (r = .128, p = .000, p < 0.05). We also found that hours of sleep per night positively correlated with sleep satisfaction (r = .434, p = .000, p < 0.05). Finally, hours of sleep per night negatively correlated with nights per month that someone experiences difficulty sleeping (r = -.361, p = .000, p > 0.05). It’s important to note that correlation is not a representation of causation between any of these variables.

Limitations

All the data being presented here are self-reported. There are various issues with self-reported data. These include exaggeration and selective memory. For example, we asked respondents to report how much sleep they typically get each night and how many minutes it generally takes them to fall asleep. Respondents had to rely on their own memory to report these figures and could have exaggerated them.

Fair Use Statement

Do you have a friend who could use some added motivation to get to the gym? Feel free to share this study and its findings as motivation to prioritize both sleep and exercise. Please link back here so that they can see all the results and our contributors get credit for their efforts. All sharing must be done for noncommercial reuse.

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained on the site should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only.

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