Not Sleeping Well? You Aren't Achieving Your Greatest Workout Either. Here's Why

Rest plays a huge role in your workouts and recovery. Here's why better sleep equals better exercise.

Kacie Goff Contributor
Kacie is a contributor to CNET.
Kacie Goff
4 min read
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You do a lot to power your workouts -- from drinking lots of water beforehand to popping in good headphones so the beat can keep you pumped up. You know that what you do before your workout matters. And that's true well before your get-ready-to-work-out routine begins. Let's look at the relationship between sleep and exercise. 

Long story short, better sleep means better exercise. So if you've been looking to beat your personal record, make sure you're hitting the hay early the night before. 

Why is sleep important for working out?

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Research shows that sleep and exercise have a bidirectional relationship. In other words, your workout can help you sleep, and your sleep can help you crush your workout. Sleep doesn't just help to power your activity level; it makes you more likely to be more active. Another study found that sleep quality can fairly accurately predict a person's activity level the following day.

So, sleep affects fitness. Poor-quality or insufficient sleep make you less likely to get active. On the flip side, solid sleep can help your body feel good and function at its best. Sleep does everything from boosting your energy -- helping you push for that next level in your workout -- to supporting muscle repair, a must if you want to get stronger. It also helps your brain function at its maximum. If you're playing sports or doing a complicated workout like an involved yoga flow, a good night's rest goes a long way. 

We could point to a wide range of studies for further proof, but you've probably felt the evidence yourself. After a bad sleep, you definitely don't jump to lace up your sneakers. After a few nights of good rest, on the other hand, you feel more motivated and capable, helping you get better exercise, and enjoy it more.

How to both exercise and get enough sleep

Now you know the relationship between sleep and exercise: Better sleep means better exercise and vice versa. But in among all the demands of your busy daily life, you might feel like you need to choose one or the other. Below, we have some tips to help you get enough sleep and get the most out of your exercise. 

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Stick to a schedule 

Your body relies on an internal clock (your circadian rhythm) to help you fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested. Working out can help this clockwork function the way it should, by lowering your cortisol (stress) level. But for your circadian rhythm to function at its best, you need to get up and go to bed at the same time each night (yes, even on weekends). 

If you want to wake up early to exercise before your workday, that's fine. Just make sure you're getting up at or near that time every morning and going to bed early enough to get at least seven hours of sleep. 

If you're struggling to stick to a schedule, a shorter workout or squeezing in exercise at work or when you watch TV might help. 

Don't work out close to bedtime

There's no best time of day to work out, but there is a window when you should avoid working up a sweat. Specifically, don't log an intense workout an hour before bed. Though it's something of a myth that working out at night negatively impacts sleep, high-intensity exercise can make it harder to fall asleep in the hour that follows.  

Try an outdoor workout

Getting natural light during your workout can help your circadian rhythm work the way it should. If you can, take your exercise outside. Whether you run through your neighborhood, roll out your yoga mat at a park, grab a surfboard, hit a hiking trail or hop on your bike, you'll be helping yourself to fall asleep faster and to sleep better overall. 

Make sure to drink water

If you're one of those people who hates having to get up in the night to use the bathroom, it might be tempting to cut back on your water intake in the evening. But dehydration will make your workouts harder. You need to replace the liquid you lose through sweat. If you're working out a lot, that might mean drinking more than the standard eight cups of water. And you don't want to cram it all in at night, when it could wind up interrupting your sleep. Instead, make it a habit to drink water throughout the day. Carrying a water bottle with you during the day can help. 

Wind down with yoga

We don't recommend a serious sweat session right before bed, but other kinds of exercise can help you get better sleep. Stretching or some simple yoga poses can help you calm both your body and your mind. This makes it easier to drift off to sleep quickly rather than tossing and turning. And that can help you ace your workout tomorrow.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.