Your alarm is set for your 6 a.m. workout, and you responsibly slip into bed exactly eight-and-a-half hours before you have to wake up. But you're still awake a few hours later, thinking obsessively about an argument you had with a friend before moving on to a stressful meeting you have planned with your boss the next day. You finally fall asleep at 3 a.m., only to be woken up by the blaring sound of your alarm a mere three hours later. You know your body could do with the two hours of extra sleep you could get if you just skipped your workout, but you drag yourself out of bed anyway, reminding yourself that you committed to getting more exercise this year.
We've all had to choose between sleep and exercise at some point, and you're probably familiar with feelings of intense hunger throughout those exhausting days. That could have something to do with the tough workout you put in that morning, but more likely it's because, as a 2010 University of Chicago study shows, the hunger hormone ghrelin kicks into high gear when we're sleep-deprived.
Not only can this lead to even lower levels of energy due to the unhealthy food we may mindlessly reach for when we're tired, but it can lead to weight gain. And while we know exercise plays a small role in weight loss and a potentially larger one in weight maintenance, when it comes to reaching a healthy weight, what's the more important piece of the puzzle?