An intense training schedule also includes designated rest days. Your body needs that time to rest and rebuild itself. But, rest is more than a light workout, it’s sleep and lots of it. It’s during sleep that the body actually gets to work building muscle and recuperating from the micro-tears created during training.
How and When Muscle Growth and Recovery Happens
A typical seven to nine hour night of sleep can be broken down into four to six 60 to 90-minute sleep cycles. Within each of these sleep cycles, you pass through five sleep stages. Muscle recovery begins during stage III sleep, the first of the slow wave sleep stages.
During this stage, the body releases human growth hormone (GH), which floods the muscle tissue and triggers the rebuilding and repair. The new tissue increases muscle mass and strength. The Effects of Sleep Deprivation Anytime you get less than seven hours of sleep, the effects of sleep deprivation begin to affect your body, including muscle recovery. Too little sleep decreases the time the muscles spend in slow wave sleep, delaying recovery.
Along those same lines, the peak of your nightly GH takes place during the first sleep cycle of the night. However, if you get to bed two to three hours late, the peak doesn’t take place until the second cycle, and the peak is lower than normal. Overall, your muscles spend less time exposed to GH, again, delaying recovery.
Athletes May Require Extra Sleep
Serious athletes put big demands on their bodies, which can require extra sleep. For example, a study conducted amongst the Stanford University men’s varsity basketball team found that athletes who got at least 10 hours of sleep had faster sprint times and an increase in field goal and free-throw percentages of over nine percent.
Other studies have found that sleep affects strength, stamina, and endurance. Overall, if you’re an athlete, you need to make sure you’re getting the bare minimum of at least seven hours. If you’re putting in extra hours at the gym, you may need to up your sleep hours too.
How to Get Better (and More) Sleep
With time and consistent effort, better and more sleep can enhance recovery and improve performance. We suggest starting with:
• The Right Sleep Environment: Clutter, too much light and sound, and room temperature can all impact your ability to get a good night’s rest. Check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, for safety’s sake, and then create a relaxing, sleep supportive bedroom. Clean up so you have plenty of room to relax and block out as much light as possible. If street or neighbor noise are out of your control, try a white noise machine. Finally, most people sleep comfortably in a room that’s between 60 to 68 degrees.
• A Consistent Bedtime: If you’re going to increase the hours you’re sleeping, you need to get to bed on time. The more consistent you are the better your brain is able to adjust to your preferred schedule, which means sleep hormones will be released at the correct time.
• Limiting the Use of Electronics: Electronics like TVs and smartphones can emit a blue spectrum light that suppresses sleep hormones. Limit your use a few hours before bed or even better, turn them off two or three hours in advance. Conclusion A body that works hard needs adequate sleep to keep up with demand. Put all your effort into your workouts, but be sure you’re giving your body the time it needs to recover so that you can reach your full potential.
A body that works hard needs adequate sleep to keep up with demand. Put all your effort into your workouts, but be sure you’re giving your body the time it needs to recover so that you can reach your full potential.
Article submitted by Stacey L. Nash. Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.