Training

What Happens To Your Performance On 5 Hours Of Sleep?

Updated September 24th 2022

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.

Those are not the only things that are affected—

  1. Tendons not fully recovered
  2. Bone not fully recovered
  3. CNS not fully recovered

Not only that but it can make you understand why you may lose muscle overnight as well.

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 vs a dumbbell shrug, your muscles and nervous system may not be ready to handle a strenuous load which 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 tired during a workout, 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 all-nighter 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.

This is one reason why it takes so long for your muscles to recover from hard training sessions.

Even worse, you could injure yourself from doing a normal range of motion.

For instance, having neck pain from doing overhead presses or painful shoulder popping from lateral raises.

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.

THE VERDICT: NO TO WORKING OUT ON 4-6 HOURS OF SLEEP

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 to protect their bodies and overall health.

From a medical perspective, this seems like the most logical and safe thing to do.

 

Will one night of bad sleep affect gains?

Yes, one night of bad sleep will affect gains in the short term. 

However, if you are diligent and strategic, limiting these events will have no effect on your long-term gains and outlook.

The key point here is that these "bad sleep" episodes for whatever excuse are events that only happened once and stay that way.

Life does get in the way so you do need to be able to be resilient and bounce back with a strategic plan.

 

Should you skip your workout if you didn't get enough sleep?

Tom Brady gets 9+ hours of sleep every night.

His longevity speaks volumes

I would recommend skipping your workout if you did not get enough sleep unless you have an issue with:

  • Discipline
  • External stress (scholarships, etc.)

Aside from these rare situations, 99.9% of people will not fall into either category and can protect their health.

Live to fight another day.

Especially with lifting weights, this is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint.

The most successful lifters with the least amount of mileage are proof that you need to take recovery (sleep) seriously in order to keep on lifting for a long time.

HOW TO STRENGTH TRAIN WHEN SLEEP DEPRIVED

Not recommended but life gets in the way sometimes.

You need the play with the cards life dealt you and make the best of your situation.

  1. Do not learn new explosive movements
  2. Do low intensity exercises
  3. Do not do high intensity sets
  4. Do not take preworkout to have more energy to strength train

So, we are now familiar with the possible side effects of being sleep-deprived.

You may be motivated to do strength training 6 days a week.

But life is a different animal.

You just had a baby and you want to work out.

You are in college as 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 work out 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 personal records (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 continue 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 underestimated.

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

  1. “You got to do what you got to do.”
  2. “Just one time.”
  3. “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, do 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 your bodies.

Not a worth-it trade in my book...

But I am not your father.

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 9+ years of strength training experience, I personally recommend just skipping the workout if you truly feel beat up or sleep deprived. 

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.

In 2021, statistics show that the sleep industry is a $488b industry. 

And it is still growing.

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.

That's how you can easily get a 405lbs deadlift or a 225lbs bench.

I agree that some exercise is better than no exercise at all.

However, with 6 hours of sleep, you are limiting some exercise 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.

TAKEAWAYS

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.

Lifters need to use their time effectively and efficiently.

It may not be the most popular decision socially but you are your own captain of your ship (body).

What are some difficult questions you may want to think about—

  • What are my goals?
  • What am I willing to sacrifice?
  • What am I willing to tolerate?
  • How can I adjust my lifestyle to create a plan to meet these wants?

Piece by piece, you should be able to have a personal goal you really want.

Now, you need to work backward and construct a plan to reach that goal.


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