A lack of sleep is associated with an impaired ability to adapt to our workouts. The negative consequences of acute sleep loss include decreased muscle strength and endurance, diminished motivation, an increase in perceived exercise effort (the same workout feels more difficult when we are short on sleep), and reduced cognitive processing ability.
Authors of a brand-new meta-analysis published in the journal Sports Medicine this month sought to synthesize the impact of acute sleep loss on our physical performance. Specifically, the researchers examined how sleep loss influenced power, strength, endurance, high-intensity-interval exercise, and skill. This new paper will serve as a guide for the coaching and medical staff of professional sports teams around the world and can help you get more out of your workouts.
The study conclusively shows that acute sleep loss negatively impacts next-day exercise performance. All fitness and performance variables were negatively impacted by acute sleep loss.
Interestingly, how you experience sleep loss impacts your exercise performance, such as:
-Missing out on sleep because you wake up much earlier than you are accustomed to has a more negative impact on your exercise performance when compared to missing sleep due to staying up later than you are accustomed to.
-If you experience acute sleep loss, you are probably better off working out early in the day, since exercise that is performed in the afternoon or evening is far more impacted than exercise performed in the morning. If you wake up after a night of little sleep, you are better off working out as early in the day as possible.
-Expect sleep loss to negatively impact your leg strength more than your upper body strength.
This study only examined sleep loss the night preceding our workout. To make this actionable and to maximize your exercise benefits, pay special attention to receiving 7-9 hours of sleep prior to your key workouts.
To be clear, this study only examined the quantity of sleep. Future research should examine how diminished sleep quality may impact exercise performance.