To snooze or to spin? That is the question. Increasing evidence suggests that if you hit the gym at the expense of sleep, you could be causing more harm than good. With a lack of sleep contributing to everything from an increased appetite to a slower metabolism and limited cell recovery, could building in extra bed time be the secret to a better body? Tor Cardona, SL’s Health & Beauty Editor, investigates...
Is hitting snooze not such a bad thing, after all?
It depends. While countless sleep experts say constant snoozing disrupts your body’s circadian rhythm and will undoubtedly leave you feeling groggy, when it comes to the gym vs sleep question, it may be better to lie in. If you aren’t getting enough shut-eye, research has shown that not only are you making it harder to stick with a healthy diet, but you’re also going to lack the energy and stamina you need to stay active and give your all to your workout.
How much sleep do we really need?
This differs from person to person (some people thrive on less than five hours) but the recommended time is somewhere between seven to eight hours per night. The key is to listen to your body – if your alarm goes off at the crack of dawn and your body feels genuinely tired, with the thought of hitting the treadmill filling you with dread, head back to dreamland.
But what if you love to workout out early?
That’s fine, but if you find you feel fatigued during the day, that it’s difficult to concentrate or hard to wake up, you may need to reconsider your sleep schedule. However, exercising early comes with a whole host of benefits that are hard to ignore – from increased alertness and endorphins to improved sleep come bedtime. If you are reluctant to abandon your morning workout, be sure to give your body some wakeup time before exercising – try to incorporate at least 15 minutes of stretching into your routine to avoid injury and general muscle soreness.
Why is sleep so important for wellbeing?
Research shows sleep plays a major role in your overall physical and emotional health, helping your brain function, reducing your risk of chronic diseases, promoting mental well-being and boosting your immune system. Plus, studies also suggest sleep loss is associated with increased hunger and appetite (especially for fatty, high-calorie foods), linking a lack of sleep with an increased risk of obesity.
Is it true a lack of sleep can affect metabolism?
Yes – and it can happen after just one night of sleep deprivation. A recent Swedish study found when a group of healthy, young male subjects stayed awake all night, their metabolic rate slowed, reducing their energy expenditure for tasks such as breathing and digestion by as much as 20% the following day. A cumulative lack of sleep will therefore undoubtedly affect the rate at which your body burns calories.
Ultimately, is it better to get six hours of sleep and a workout, or eight hours and no workout?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer as everybody is different. However, instead of sacrificing a full two hours of sleep, focus on getting exercise without a marathon gym session. A quick, high-intensity 20-30 minute workout or walking to work at a brisk pace will set you up for the day.
Maximise recovery and soothe weary muscles with SL’s edit of the ultimate pre-sleep supplements...
I would recommend - Magnesium Tablets, £9.99 | Holland & Barrett
WHY I RATE IT: Take up to two tablets at bedtime to lull mind and body into a deep slumber that will leave you feeling fresh and ready to face the day.