Should you exercise when you are tired?
Editor’s note: seek the advice of a health care provider if you have chronic sleep loss and before beginning an exercise program.
(CNN) — It’s the end of another long day at the office after a bad night’s sleep. As usual, you’re exhausted, but you want to stop at the gym on the way home to get the exercise you need to stay healthy. Should You Exercise When You Suffer From Chronic Sleep Insufficiency?
This conundrum is a pervasive problem, considering that 1 in 3 Americans don’t sleep well, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It’s definitely a two-way relationship, not one or the other,” said Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“First, there is clear data showing that regular exercise improves sleep quality; moderate exercise in the morning, afternoon, or very early evening can improve deep sleep,” Zee said.
Deep sleep is the healing stage where your body repairs itself and restores itself. Also called “slow wave” sleep, it can only be achieved if your sleep quality is good, with few or no nightly interruptions.
“Research also shows that if you sleep better, you’re more likely to be able to exercise and your physical activity levels will be higher,” Zee said.
“So even if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep, you should keep up your physical activity.”
Need for quality sleep
To be healthy, the body needs to go through four stages of sleep several times each night. During the first and second stages, the body begins to slow down. Doing so prepares us for stage three: deep, slow-wave sleep in which the body literally restores itself on a cellular level, repairing the damage from the day’s wear and tear, and consolidating memories into long-term storage.
Rapid eye movement sleep, called REM, is the final stage in which we dream. Studies have shown that a lack of REM sleep can lead to poor memory and cognitive outcomes, as well as heart disease and other chronic illnesses, and early death.
On the other hand, years of research have found that sleep, especially the deepest and most healing sleep, stimulates immune function.
Since each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, most adults need seven to eight hours of relatively uninterrupted sleep to achieve restful sleep and be healthy, according to the CDC. Lack of sleep, along with irregular sleep duration, has been linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, dementia, and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Beware of injuries
A poor night’s sleep shouldn’t have an impact on your exercise routine, but chronic sleep deprivation leading to multiple days of exhaustion is another matter, experts say.
It may not be wise to hit the gym or play a sport when you can barely put one foot in front of the other, said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. .
“Without sleep, your muscles can’t recover from the stress you put them through during workouts. It doesn’t do you much good to keep breaking down your muscles without giving them time to recover and get stronger,” Dasgupta said.
Also, you’re more likely to suffer an injury when you’re exhausted, he explained, due to the slow reaction times of your tired brain working to make decisions during training or sport.
“Lack of sleep can also affect your motivation to exercise in the first place. You may find yourself intimidated by your normal workouts and hating every minute in the gym, which is not good for long-term adherence to a fitness plan,” Dasgupta said.
Also, lack of sleep can lead you to make poor food choices, which affects your fitness and physical performance, he said.
use common sense
So it’s not a good idea to exercise while you’re extremely tired, but if you do, you might sleep better and benefit more from exercise. Which is the answer?
Use common sense, Zee said. “If you’re not sleeping well, don’t do that intense training. Walk or do yoga instead, but certainly stick to a regimen of exercise or physical activity at the usual time of day that you normally would.”
If you’re short on time, consider including several short exercise sessions throughout the day.
“Everything counts,” Dasgupta said. “Do whatever makes you feel happy and refreshed. It’s about hitting the reset button for yourself, not doing some kind of exercise because you feel compelled to.”