Should You Do a Workout After a Bad Night's Sleep? We Asked an Expert

Justin Guthrie
Photo credit: svetikd - Getty Images

From Men's Health

Sleep is crucial to any workout regimen. It energises and restores, and helps your body grow. As noted sports scientist William Shakespeare once said, sleep is “sore labour’s balm”. He was right: those precious hours are when your body repairs the damage caused by the previous day’s activities. “If you didn’t get adequate sleep, you’re starting a little bit in the hole,” says Jim Pate, physiologist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance.

In a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, cyclists tasked with riding at an ever-increasing intensity gave up sooner when they were sleep-deprived compared to their daisy-fresh counterparts. But guess what? They survived, and so will you.

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed can convince you that what you need right now is a break. Powering through to the gym will just exhaust you later in the day, right? Wrong.

Training is the best way to give your tired brain a lift. One study at the University of Georgia found that exhausted volunteers who took part in moderate-effort exercise experienced a significant decline in fatigue, while separate research revealed that a 10-minute stair climb can boost alertness more effectively than 50mg of caffeine – roughly the same amount as your pre-workout macchiato.

However, we'd caution against going too hard. Today isn't the day to set a PB on the squat rack: to enjoy the brain-energising benefits of exercise, you can keep things steady.

Pate advises avoiding anything too intense and building your sessions around mobility, stability and fun stuff, such as skill development. Bear in (addled) mind, though, that your coordination will be impaired: that means no complicated gymnastics. Working through your pull-up progressions, however? Perfect. No kipping now…

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