So you stayed up way too late watching House of Cards and now you’re staring at your alarm clock, wondering if you should still wake up early and drag your butt to the gym. Normally, you’re up and at ‘em like a champ, but sleep-deprived supersets sound like anything but funzies. Should you skip your workout and sleep in—or suck it up and head to the gym?
The answer all depends on whether or not you can nap tomorrow, say experts.
If You Can’t Nap…
Catch up on sleep. We’re officially giving you a sleep expert’s permission to snooze. “Studies show that when people get less than six hours—meaning they were sleep deprived—they’re more prone to athletic injuries,” says Robert Rosenberg, D.O., board-certified sleep medicine physician and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day.
In other words, if you want to stay injury-free and maximize your sweat session, you need adequate zzz’s first. Heading to the gym when you’re bleary-eyed can actually work against your fitness goals—and the ill effects can carry into the rest of your day. “Your alertness and performance can suffer,” says Cathy Goldstein, M.D., a sleep specialist at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center. That’s not so great for things like dominating a work project or, you know, driving. What’s more, because short sleep can alter hunger hormones, you could end up eating more calories than you burned exercising, she says.
Your fix: Stay in bed the extra hour. If you normally wake up at 6 a.m. for your workout, sleep in until 7 a.m. While it’s important to maintain a consistent wake-up time most days, sleeping in a bit (we’re talking one hour, not three) isn’t a huge deal when you need it, says Rosenberg.
If You Can Nap…
Wake up early and go to the gym. Yes, even if it’s a weekend, says Goldstein. Sure, that sounds harsh, but hear us out. One factor that controls your ability to get to sleep at night is your internal clock (a.k.a your circadian rhythm), which is controlled by your morning light exposure, she explains. When you sleep in, you expose yourself to sunlight later than usual, which tells your body and brain you should go to bed later, too—leaving you stuck in an endless cycle of never being able to rise and shine for the gym. “For that reason, I think morning workouts at the same time each day are great for your sleep,” says Goldstein.
Your fix: Take a quick siesta—for no more than one hour—before 2 p.m., says Goldstein. You’ll wake feeling refreshed, without interrupting your normal circadian rhythm, she says. Set an alarm so you don’t oversleep—anything longer than an hour will cut into your shut-eye later that night.
Oh, and if you’re chronically shorting yourself on sleep, change up your priorities. “Make up time for sleep by cutting out NetFlix binges as opposed to cutting out your workout,” says Goldstein. (Easier said than done, but okayyy.)
This article was originally published by Women’s Health.
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