What Happens To Your Performance On 5 Hours Of Sleep?
Updated December 19th 2020
What happens when you work out on 5 hours of sleep?
Are you sleep deprived?
Got maybe around 4,5, or 6 hours of sleep and are debating on whether or not you should workout for the day.
Here are some of the reasons why you should not go strength training to the gym.
Working out on only 4-6 hours of sleep?
It is not a good idea to strength train when you did not get a good night’s rest.
Many by-products of poor sleep can cause havoc on your body, which will make strength training not efficient or helpful.
Here are some of the effects of what 5 hours of sleep can possibly do for you:
- Risk of injury increases
- Immune system supression
- Mediocre performance
- Decreased rate of recovery
- Slow systemic body damage
RISK OF INJURY INCREASES
With less sleep, your reaction rate and thinking capabilities are diminished according to research.
As a result, you may not be fine-tuned to realize when the beginning of an injury may occur, making it a very dangerous situation for yourself.
For example, if you are doing a heavy barbell shrug (over a dumbbell shrug), your muscles and nervous system may not be ready to handle a strenuous load and could result in an injury.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS ON YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
One of the most important effects of lack of sleep is the increase of cortisol, the stress hormone in our body.
As cortisol levels increase, this decreases our body’s ability to fight infection.
Combined with a hard, strenuous workout, this is a recipe for a 2-week disaster that no lifter ever wants to be in.
So, if you ever feel that you are more tired from lifting weights, not getting enough sleep may be one reason for this symptom.
PERFORMANCE IS MEDIOCRE
According to research, even one bad night of sleep can decrease your reaction time and performance.
As more poor nights of sleep rack up, cognitive ability, memory, and even pain tolerance decrease as well.
In another study performed on marathon runners, they were forced to pull an allnighter and train the next day.
Results show that they ran less distance but felt they exercised more effort.
The bottom line?
Performance is average at best and you will most likely have an unproductive session.
Even worse, you could injure yourself from doing a normal range of motion.
SLOWER RATE OF RECOVERY
Growth hormones are released during deeper levels of sleep.
If you do not get a good amount of sleep, this limits the number of hormones released to recover from any workout.
Being sleep-deprived interferes with tissue repair and also increases cortisol.
So, if you are only deadlifting every week, you could find yourself not being able to recover fully before the next deadlift workout.
NOT GOOD FOR YOUR OVERALL HEALTH
There is a reason why sleep scientists recommend that the average adult gets at least 7 hours of sleep.
For younger kids and athletes, the recommendation only goes up as they require more sleep to continue growing.
Heart disease, weight gain, hypertension, and increased mortality rates are some issues that can result from cumulative sessions of being sleep-deprived.
It is clear that having a bad night’s rest can lead to more problems down the road.
Researchers suggest that lifters should skip the workout and to protect their body and overall health.
From a medical perspective, this seems like the most logical and safe thing to do.
HOW TO STRENGTH TRAIN WHEN SLEEP DEPRIVED
So, we are now familiar with the possible side effects of being sleep deprived.
But life is a different animal.
You just had a baby and you want to workout.
You are in college in an engineering major and it is finals week.
Two very common situations many people may find themselves in and a whole bunch more I cannot even count on my fingers.
So, should lifters just give up and not workout until they can catch up on sleep?
If you look for any advice on the internet on whether or not you should exercise when sleeping only 4,5,6 hours that night, they will say just go to the gym.
It is just one time and just muscle through the workout.
This can be a very bad recommendation for those who are relatively new to lifting.
Here is the answer.
Yes, you can strength train while sleep deprived but you may need to modify your training regime. Learning new explosive movements, high intensity sets, and long intervals of endurance work are some of the movements that should be avoided if you did not get a good night’s rest.
DO NOT LEARN NEW EXPLOSIVE MOVEMENTS
This is not good for you if you are not physically or mentally sharp.
This is not good for the people working out with you in the same gym.
Because you are sleep deprived, your performance and reaction times are hampered.
Why should you learn how to do new strength training movements if your body and mind are not at 100%?
It is a disaster waiting to happen.
DO SOMETHING LOW INTENSITY
Do not expect to hit PRs, even though it can be possible.
Why would you risk it on the day you did not get proper rest.
There are 364 other days in the year you can try to hit a huge PR.
Keep your ego in check.
Low-intensity exercises keep your body moving and continues to strengthen your power of habit.
I get it.
You need to keep going to the gym.
Good, it is better to do something with low-intensity than resume your normal workout, only to suffer a nasty injury that will sideline you for a couple of months.
Do the right thing, for both your health and your mind.
DO NOT DO HIGH-INTENSITY SETS AND/OR RUNNING SESSIONS
I get it.
We are all on a quest to continue improving.
However, when you only had 4,5, or 6 hours of sleep last night, your training goals may have just gotten a litter further.
Not to discourage you, but whatever happened in the past can not be changed.
The only thing we can change is our attitude and our plan of action.
So, avoid doing any high-intensity exercises.
The amount of stress you can cause on your body is not to be under-estimated.
DO EXERCISE FOR NO MORE THAN 30 MINUTES.
The major point here is that we want to exercise and be active, but not go past the point where stress hormones are created.
Working out for 30 minutes or less is usually that threshold.
Doing a few circuits or doing a light 20-minute jog are some ways you can cope with only sleeping 5 hours last night.
It is plenty of time to get a lot done.
DO NOT TAKE PREWORKOUT IF YOU ARE SLEEP DEPRIVED, TO STRENGTH TRAIN
“You got to do what you got to do.”
“Just one time.”
“It’s fine. Life happens.”
Any other excuses I missed?
Your body is already working overtime just to keep your body alive and functioning in everyday life.
In addition to that, you want to overstimulate the body, forcing it to strength train when you should be resting?
You could barely get out of bed in the morning.
What makes you think it is logical and safe to put your body under even more stress?
Chances are you are getting very little return on your investment for a very high return to damage your adrenal glands and other major tissues/organs in our bodies.
Not a worth it trade in my book.
But I am not your mother.
You can make your own independent decision on what is more important for you.
DO CONSIDER SKIPPING THE WORKOUT
It may be advisable if you had multiple nights of low sleep that you should just skip your workout and train another day.
Especially if you are a beginner and running a general strength training program like Greyskull LP, you really cannot afford to lose sleep and expect great results.
I know... it sucks that you have to not pump iron right now.
But this is not about your ego and pride in the short term.
It is about thinking about the future and preventing injuries from occurring.
Would you rather skip 1-2 workouts right now or be injured for the next 6-8 months?
Since I had the latter of the two happen to me, I would much rather pick the former choice if I knew it would help protect my body.
SHOULD I JUST SLEEP IN?
After nearly 7+ years of strength training experience, I personally recommend just skipping the workout if you truly feel beat up or sleep deprivated.
The gym will always be there for you and when you are well rested, your mood, concentration and pain tolerance will be more fit for a proper workout.
According to studies in 2017, the sleep market is a 28 billion dollar industry.
You could only imagine how much of that money is poured into research in order to figure out the best solutions that can be provided for the customers (this is you).
So, when sleep researchers recommend that the average adult should get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep every night, do not argue with them.
With kids and athletes, this recommendation increases.
But if you are only getting 6 hours of sleep every single night, do not expect to make as many gains as if you were resting the recommended amount or more.
In fact, I would not be surprised if you have energy vampires in your home.
Distractions and other wasteful activities you do that prevent you from going to bed earlier.
This needs to be considered since you should begin to change your habits and go to bed earlier.
Some veteran lifters will argue that there is no such thing as perfect days.
As a result, you should go to the gym even though you only slept 4 or 5 hours today.
This is because this one-time event of being sleep deprived will not happen often and if it does happen, let us say once a week, will you skip the gym every week?
Lifters will emphasize that you need to focus on consistency rather than how your body is feeling.
I agree that some exercise is better than no exercise at all.
However, with 6 hours of sleep, you are limiting some exercises choices (strenuous lifting, high-intensity running, etc).
If this is a regular occurrence, lifestyle changes will need to be made in order to prevent these situations from ever surfacing.
Sleep is vital for existence and you can only do so much with 5 hours of sleep.
Do not expect your body to take care of you if you do not get enough sleep every night.