The trade-off between exercise and sleep is an all too common occurrence.
While we all experience fatigue and tiredness, on some days, getting out of bed is a struggle. And on those mornings when you wake up feeling completely exhausted, should you push through and head to the gym or roll over for a little more shuteye?
Unfortunately, science doesn’t have a definitive answer for this just yet but the general consensus amongst experts is to choose sleep, especially if you’re feeling super sleep deprived. Pushing your body through a tough workout when you’re not feeling 100% could result in an injury.
“Too much fatigue can reduce motor skills and increase the risk of injury,” exercise physiologist, Pete McCall, told Self. “Less than five hours of sleep can affect reaction times and cognitive function, both of which are critical for optimal performance during exercise.”
Lack of sleep can also affect visual tracking and your attention span, so if you’re lifting weights or running on a treadmill, you literally might not have the brain space to fully focus on your activity. Sleep deprivation also impacts your decision-making skills, which can increase your risk of injury, says mindbodygreen (mbg).
“Studies show that sleep-deprived individuals will know the risks of their decisions but not care what those risks are, and take risks unnecessarily,” clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus, Ph.D., told mbg.
Injury aside, working out when you’re not feeling your best means you probably won’t perform the best either.
Research from 2009 found that inadequate sleep negatively impacts athletic performance while quality sleep improves performance. And, if the choice is between some much-needed sleep and a mediocre workout, stay in bed.
If you do choose to sleep for a while longer over heading to the gym, try to incorporate some gentle movement later in the day like a walk or a yoga class. This way you’re still engaging in movement but not at the expense of your body.