Staying healthy is so easy, right? Log eight hours of sleep, work out for an hour a day at least five days a week, and steer clear of processed foods. But that math doesn’t always add up—trying to fit in the recommended dosage of sleep and exercise, on top of all the other variables in your life (kids! work! relationships!), can seem impossible. So when you’re debating the choice of lying in bed for another two hours or dragging yourself to the gym, sometimes shuteye wins.
But is that such a bad thing? After all, some mornings you just don’t feel well, or maybe you overdid it yesterday. Is it ever worth it to sleep in and skip the gym? Turns out, science still doesn’t have the hard and fast answer (but if you find it, be sure to let us know!). “Both sleep and exercise are main behaviors that contribute to physical and mental health,” says Kelly Glazer Baron, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist .Her research has found that clocking at least seven hours of sleep can actually help you work out longer and harder the next day. And the exercise/sleep equation goes both ways—people with insomnia who started a regular aerobic exercise program improved the quality of their sleep and felt less tired during the day, another study found you should also be aware of The Unhealthy Food Cravings Caused by Just One Less Hour of Sleep
Considering multiple studies point to the direct relationship between sleep and exercise, there’s no denying that you should strive for adequate amounts of both, adds Shannon Fable, director of exercise programming at national gym chain Anytime Fitness. “If that’s impossible, try to only sacrifice your sleep two to three days during the week in order to hit the early morning cycling class. Get some extra sleep the other days and on the weekends.” That said there are still a few hard and fast rules you can follow to determine what to do on those tough days when your bed feels oh-so-comfy.
If you got seven to eight hours of sleep the night before… You’re good to hit the gym, says Fable. Seven to nine hours of sleep is what most adults need, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
If you’ve been sleeping less than six hours most nights that week… It’s time to rethink your schedule, recommends Baron. See where you can cut corners to be more efficient: Head to bed 15 minutes earlier or shave 10 minutes off your morning routine to get a bit more sleep. If you’re not a morning person, consider a lunch break or an after work gym time Try this Insanely Effective 15-Minute Workout when you’re crunched for time