For most people, there never seems to be enough time in the day to complete everything we would like to do. This becomes even more difficult when we become parents. Parents are often forced to make many choices to manage their time every day. In the midst of their busy lives, parents may wonder what the most efficient ways to spend their time are. Should I do the laundry now or later? Should I exercise or sleep in this morning?
One team of researchers sought out to explore the best ways that busy working mothers can spend their time. “Working mothers appear to be an important population in deed of greater research attention as they report serious time constraints, poorer sleep satisfaction, and worse mental health,” the authors pointed out in their study, which was published in Mental Health and Physical Activity.
Specifically, the researchers compared the benefits of sleep to the benefits of exercise for working mothers.
In this study, mothers were asked to keep daily diaries for two weeks, tracking their daily sleep and exercise habits, as well as their positive and negative moods. The mothers also tracked their sleep satisfaction and exercise intensity to see whether this would have any impact on their daily mood.
The authors found that sleep satisfaction was related to participants’ moods—participants who experienced higher sleep satisfaction reported a more positive daily mood. Daily exercise also was linked to a more positive mood, and this was true regardless of the intensity of exercise.
While both sleep and exercise helped improve the mothers’ daily moods, exercise was more beneficial than sleep was. These findings offer further support for the benefits of exercise on individuals’ mood. Even with various desires competing for mothers’ time, exercise still had a strong benefit.
Is it possible that exercising simply helped the participants sleep better at night? This is unlikely, according to the study’s findings. There was no association between the intensity of physical activity and participants’ sleep satisfaction the following night.
Although this research found that exercise helped boost participants’ mood more than sleep did, the authors said it is important to note that sleep is very important for maintaining a positive daily mood. A lack of regular exercise and sleep can be harmful to your mental and physical health.
As the authors suggested, a more positive mood can have important impacts on individuals’ physical and mental health. The authors concluded that, “given that working mothers are a time-pressed population, short and intense physical activity bouts might be a good option.”