2020 was not an easy year for anyone. For many, finding coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of a global pandemic became essential; and from the increase in sales that companies such as Peloton (at-home biking) and Hydrow (at-home rowing) experienced, it’s safe to say that focusing on fitness became one of those key mechanisms – more specifically, at-home fitness.
People have begun to embrace the benefits of walking only a few feet to the gym. With this simplification of the everyday workout routine, Fortune reported what many have suspected: The at-home fitness phenomenon is here to stay.
With fitness now much more accessible (no more costly gym memberships or awkward group settings), it’s no wonder that the stereotypical new year’s resolution of starting a #fitjourney began earlier than January 1, 2021; and while this is a positive outcome of 2020, this newfound appreciation for exercise does come with a few caveats.
Facts and Stats
According to YouGov, a data collection organization, most Americans prefer working out in the morning. For many working Americans, this is the only time they have to exercise. For sleep physicians, though, this raises a particular concern: Lack of sleep mixed with exercise can result in some hefty negative consequences.
When speaking to 5280, Denver’s Mile High Magazine, Dr. Katherine Green, medical director of UCHealth Sleep Medicine Clinic, shared some concerning findings: “2020 is the year that just keeps on giving, and one of the things it has given us is an escalation of sleep problems.”
This past year has consisted of stress, depression, and heartache — all things that negatively impact an individual’s ability to sleep. One way to combat the negative implications of a year consumed by a global pandemic, civil unrest, and natural disasters is to turn to coping mechanisms such as exercise. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that exercise helps reduce the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and depression; but what about the science behind working out?
As one may assume, researchers have quite a bit of data on the benefits, and potential consequences, of working out — including how exercise impacts sleep.
The Perfect Balance: Sleep and Exercise
Having a healthy balance of sleep and exercise is essential to getting the most out of both activities. By providing your body with the eight hours of sleep it needs to function, you’re setting yourself up for a successful workout. What’s not recommended is losing sleep in order to workout. Sleep is so important for workouts because it reduces the possibility of injury and gives the muscles time to heal. Why is this? Well, it all ties back to your Circadian Rhythm.
According to the Sleep Foundation, “Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock, running in the background to carry out essential functions and processes.” One common-knowledge cycle is the sleep-wake cycle. This cycle monitors when your body goes to sleep and when it wakes up, all cued by light exposure. Maintaining this cycle is essential to feeling well-rested and alert.
While you’re sleeping, your body is going through a number of processes. It repairs cells, reduces stress, helps regulate your metabolism, etc. If you get up before eight hours of rest, you’re doing this during your biological night, and therefore hindering these processes.
Here’s the thing: there’s even a cycle that regulates your muscles. Muscle cells perform and repair themselves when we feed our bodies and exercise. Because of this, emerging research has shown that exercise can have greater effects on our circadian rhythms than once believed.
The Right Time of Day to Exercise
Before we get into how one can ensure they get the best of both worlds (a full night of rest and an effective workout at 6 a.m.), it’s important to discuss one important thing: the best time of day to exercise.
Studies have shown that there is no one-size-fits-all time of day — the best time of day to exercise is completely in the wheelhouse of your body and its needs.
That being said, chances are you’re reading this blog because you may be struggling with your sleep. Well, here’s some insider knowledge: To maintain a healthy sleep schedule for those who wake up early in the morning, the best times to work out are at 7 a.m. or between 1 – 4 p.m.
A study conducted by Dr. Shawn Youngstedt, an exercise scientist at Arizona State University, found that by maintaining a routine that consists of you working out at 7 a.m. or during the afternoon time frame consistently, you are adjusting your biological clock to ensure that you are more alert earlier in the day.
The More You Know: Consequences
Truthfully, the key to maintaining one’s new and improved exercise routine is to make sure that your body is aligned in a way that promotes healthy sleep. By neglecting sleep in order to fit in that early-morning workout, you’re neglecting other essential processes of your body. Some of these consequences are short term, such as being prone to getting sick, but some are long term, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
By exercising consistently and at the right time of day, your sleep quality and overall health are likely to increase. However, if you still have trouble sleeping, feel exhausted in the morning, or find it hard to concentrate or stay awake throughout the day, you may need to see a sleep expert.
Feeling tired despite living a healthy lifestyle is one of the hallmarks of sleep apnea, a serious disorder that affects over 20 million Americans. Sleep apnea prevents a person from getting the deep, restful sleep they need to wake up feeling energized, and it can also put them at a much higher risk for other conditions like mood disorders, heart attacks, and strokes.
So while getting more exercise in 2021 is a healthy goal, finally giving yourself restful sleep is, too.
At Sleep Better, Georgia, Dr. Jeff Rodgers has successfully helped patients with sleep apnea by treating the condition with oral appliance therapy (OAT). With OAT, all a patient has to do is wear a small mouthpiece-like device to bed each night. The device can help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms so patients wake up in the morning ready to take on the day. If you have questions about OAT, click here or call us at 770-766-3071.