You wake up at 5am to get in your morning run and think you’re making the healthy choice, right? But what if your sleep deprivation is costing you more than just that $4 latte required to pull you through the 3pm slump?
Studies show that it’s actually possible that sleeping that extra hour could be more beneficial for your health and fitness than that hour of cardio. A 2009 study of the women’s tennis team at Stanford showed that after increasing sleep to 10 hours per night the athletes performed better on all drills, ranging from accuracy to speed. But, before all you fitness-haters start jumping (or sleeping) for joy, we’re not suggesting you stay in bed all day and call yourself healthy.
Rather, there is a happy medium. (Isn’t there always?) According to celebrity trainer Lacey Stone, you should aim for between 7 and 8 hours for maximum fitness results. As Stone explains, “the more Zzz’s you get, the better you will be able to perform in your workouts” – meaning that that extra hour of sleep on Friday will make your Saturday workout all the more effective!
That being said, there is a point of diminishing returns. While it’s true, as Gunnar Peterson (the man behind Jennifer Lopez’s post-babies triathlon training) has said, “skipping two hours of sleep is like adding calories or subtracting cardio time from all of your hard work,” that’s not to say that every additional 2 hours of sleep makes you more physically fit.
For an optimal fitness routine, make sure you’re both sleeping an average of 7 to 8 hours per night and exercising. Not only will a lack of sleep decrease your athletic performace, but also can increase hunger and appetite (especially stimulating cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods) – doubly negating you hard work at the gym. So next time you’re tempted to hit snooze on that alarm clock and skip your morning jog. Don’t sweat it. (Literally.) It could be the healthier choice after all.