Rest vs. an endorphin rush: If you’re sleep-deprived, is it better to get more sleep or work out?
11/29/2019 // Zoey Sky // Views

It can be difficult to maintain your fitness if you have a busy work schedule, but once you get the hang of it, your day may not be complete without working out. But if you become so busy that you're not getting enough sleep, is it best to push through with working out or should you sleep in to get more rest?

What happens when you exercise while you're sleep-deprived?

According to clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus, there may be serious consequences to your health if you work out without getting enough sleep. He explained that both sleep-deprivation and poor sleep quality can affect your workouts in several ways.

You'll run out of energy faster

Physical activity requires fuel for energy, which your body stores as glycogen. Your glycogen level is directly tied to your endurance level.

Lack of sleep reduces your energy levels and decreases glycogen storage. Without fuel, Breus warned that you'll get tired faster while you're working out.

If your glycogen storage is depleted, a long workout will cause fatigue and loss of stamina.

You'll have poor decision-making skills

Lack of sleep can affect your judgment and problem-solving skills. When you're sleep-deprived, you may not be aware of the risks of your decisions.

You'll have impaired visual tracking

Lifting weights or running on a treadmill requires visual tracking, but if you can't focus on your workout, you might hurt yourself.

According to Breus, studies that measured performance during predictive visual tracking have found that sleep deprivation impairs attention.


You'll have reduced accuracy

Sleep deprivation can significantly affect your hand-eye coordination.

If you don't get enough sleep at night, your coordination will be diminished. This is the last thing you need when working with gym equipment.

Your pain perception will be increased

Sleep quality affects your pain perception. Working out when you're sleep-deprived means you'll suffer through a routine that's more agonizing than it usually is. (Related: Proper sleep hygiene is a must, since your body burns calories even in sleep.)

Your post-exercise recovery will be interrupted

Post-exercise recovery is crucial and if you're sleep-deprived but this process can be interrupted. Breus noted that factors like circadian rhythm disturbance, sleep deprivation and sleep disturbance all affect your body's recovery process.

Rest when you need to

Regular exercise is essential for your overall health, but your body needs sleep more.

The next time you've had another long night at work and you have to choose between waking up early so you can go to the gym and sleeping in, choose sleep. Sleep deprivation doesn't just affect your workout, it also hinders various psychological and physical processes and abilities.

Working out won't help your impaired bodily functions. Insisting on your gym routine while lacking proper sleep can be harmful to your health. Exercising when you're sleep-deprived increases the chance that you'll injure yourself, that you'll suffer through a more painful workout, and you'll underperform.

It's important to have a regular workout routine, but exercising won't do you any good if you end up hurting yourself. If you're tired, sleep in for one day. Continue working out when you're feeling better.

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