The Sleep Geek told me I should never prioritise exercise over my sleep - here's why

Whether you want to hear it or not, it's true!

sleep advice panel
(Image credit: Multiply (UK))

If you're one of those people that exercise five times a week and sleep for eight hours per night, all whilst achieving a healthy diet, then hats off to you. In today's day and age, it's one of the hardest balances to manage and you'd be lying if you said you hadn't struggled with it at some point. When it comes to sleep, some argue that it's probably the most important thing with regards to our general wellbeing. Whether you rely on a good mattress, a sleep tracker or just an old-fashioned sleep hack,  the benefits of being well-rested are huge. 

There are also currently a lot of studies out there that focus on the relationship between exercise and sleep. Some explore the effects of exercising before sleep or the best time to exercise in order to lose weight, but they can still contain conflicting findings and advice. However, there is one area of study that people remain confused on: is sleep more important than exercise?

Yesterday, I attended an event hosted by Sleepeezee in London to hear about its  new Centurial mattress range. It was an incredible day full of wellness, good food and panels, and even a little bit of yoga! I was also lucky enough to hear Dame Jessica Ennis Hill and James Wilson, known as The Sleep Geek, share their thoughts on all things sleep. Due to Jessica's olympic and fitness background, there was a significant part of their discussion that surrounded the relationship between exercise and sleep, and let's just say, I learnt a huge amount. 

James and Jessica began the panel by discussing the importance of sleep in general. Jessica shared her experience of training, emphasising how important sleep was when helping her body to restore and recover. Jessica also strongly reiterated the impact that a good night’s rest had on her performance, stating that a lack of sleep would have a negative effect on her body in the following days. At this point, it was becoming really evident how important sleep is in general, and it was particularly powerful hearing it from someone like Jessica. 

James affirmed what Jessica was saying, further explaining how sleep deprivation can even increase the risk of more serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Whilst he mentioned how important exercise is, especially when it comes to helping us sleep, the overall advice was clear. 

After a few minutes, the question on everyone's lips was finally asked by Tally Rye, a fitness trainer and influencer. She asked James 'Is it worth sacrificing your sleep in the morning in order to work out?' to which he replied with a strong no

James emphasised that if you feel tired and your body is requiring you to sleep for a few more hours, then there is simply no point in forcing yourself to get up and push yourself to exercise. Your body will benefit so much more from that extra bit of sleep as you will be exercising on top of your game. By providing your body with the eight hours of sleep it needs to function, you’re setting yourself up for a successful workout and reducing the possibility of injury.  

Sleep or exercise: what's the verdict?

As mentioned, James' advice is that a lack of sleep when exercising can result in some hefty negative consequences. If your body needs those extra snoozing hours, then make sure you allow yourself to have them! It's of course all about a balance and exercise shouldn't be abandoned over sleep altogether, but it's important to know that exercising without enough sleep will do more harm than good. 

Are you struggling to sleep in general? Why don't you check out these expert-approved viral sleep hacks and see if any work for you?

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.