Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


Health Dilemma: Sleep vs. Exercise?

Because sometimes, you just have to make a choice...

Most moms are not getting quite enough sleep. Most moms also don’t get enough exercise. But which is more important? And if you only have time for one, in a given 24-hour period, which one should you choose?

Well, it’s a tricky little conundrum. But I’ve got some answers for you.

Of course, it would be lovely if we all had enough time to do everything we wanted to do: time for work, family, social life, me time...plus plenty of time to rest, exercise, and make fabulous, organic, home-cooked meals that even our kids love...

Possibly this is a bit of a fantasy.

The plain truth for most of us: there is not enough time in the day. People talk a lot about balance. And it’s a nice ideal. But sometimes, you just can’t have balance. Sometimes you have to make a choice.

So, if you have to choose between exercise and sleep, you choose this:


Most experts agree that you should not be sacrificing sleep to get more exercise. Why?

Sleep is a foundation of health. You can suffer a lot of harm if you’re not getting enough sleep. Even one night of insufficient sleep can do damage—by increasing blood pressure, triggering poor eating choices, messing with your blood sugar, impairing your concentration and slowing your reflexes (thus creating danger with activities like driving). Exercise is also critical, of course, but a missed workout, here and there, is not going to have quite the same adverse effect. Setting that alarm to get up in the wee hours of the morning for a run, when you’re really not getting enough sleep, is not a good idea.

Not everyone will agree with this. And it’s maybe not as black-and-white as I’m portraying.

I think there’s room for some individual tailoring. Fact is, while you do need several hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, you don’t have to get your exercise in 60 minute chunks. For many of us, that’s just too difficult to fit in to a busy day’s schedule anyway. A good compromise on the sleep versus exercise dilemma: get the sleep you need, then squeeze your exercise into 10-minute bursts. Don’t worry about getting up two hours early to hit the gym.

(Now, if the dilemma is over housework versus exercise...here's my answer to that.)

So tell me: what do you find helps you feel better? Sleep or exercise? And if you find time for both, on a regular basis—spill it! We’d all love to hear your secrets.