What’s More Important for a Healthy Lifestyle: Sleep or Exercise?

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Raise your hand if you've found yourself in this predicament many times: You stayed up too late, and after only getting a handful of hours of sleep, you woke up and groggily got yourself to a workout class. But what's actually better for you—pressing snooze or sweating it out?

Both sleep and exercise are key components of a healthy lifestyle, Boston-based sleep expert Charles Czeisler, MD, told The New York Timesand you shouldn't choose one over the other. Catching zzz's and working out are both important for multiple reasons—and slacking on one of them can even affect the other.

Both sleep and exercise are incredibly important for a healthy lifestyle for multiple different reasons—and slacking on one of them can even affect the other, according to sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler.

Here's what happens when you stay up late and then rise early to hit the gym: Due to minimal sleep, your circadian rhythms shift, which means you're "exercising during your biological night" when you should still be sleeping. According to Dr. Czeisler, that's counterproductive because your muscle cells—which also have circadian rhythms—recover and perform better during your body's biological daytime than they do during the biological night.

Obviously, working out when your whole body is awake is crucial when it comes to your muscles—and getting a proper amount of sleep also helps prevent injuries during exercise. In fact, a lack of sleep can weaken your immune system (which prevents you from working out) and can also lead to weight gain and health issues like cardiovascular disease and diabetes—i.e., precisely what exercise aims to prevent. But on the flip side, regular exercise promotes more restful sleep—so working out at the right time can actually bank you some quality shut-eye rather than curb it.

Whether you need to set an earlier bedtime or find a different window for working out, make sure you're not putting yourself in the position to decide between these two titan pillars of wellness. Consider revolutionizing your to-do–list routine in a way that makes you happier to achieve these #goals.

Stay away from these foods before bed for better sleep. Also, these silky PJs might just give you the coziest sleep of your life.

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