A good quantity and quality of sleep can improve muscle recovery, increase muscle mass and help you reach your full potential.
However, there’s one factor needed to build muscle that’s easily forgotten — sleep. For the average adult, seven to eight hours of sleep are necessary for full muscle recovery.
Overloading the muscles to the point of fatigue creates micro-tears in the muscle tissue. It’s during the muscle recovery process that those tears are repaired.
However, sleep deprivation, which is any time you get less than seven hours of sleep, slows down the body’s ability to fully recover.
The Importance Of Sleep To Muscle Recovery
Sleep is far more complicated than was once thought.
Throughout the night, you cycle through five sleep stages. They vary from stage 1 wherein the onset of sleep takes place to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deepest sleep stage where the brain and eye activity mimics that of daytime activity.
You have to spend adequate time in REM sleep (20% of your sleep time) for proper muscle recovery.
This sleep stage starts anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes after you fall asleep, and you’ll cycle through it five or six times during the night.
Your body goes to work repairing muscle damage (building muscle) at this stage. (1)
When comparing the amount of sleep versus muscle recovery, researchers who published results in Sleep Medicine found that sleep “plays a permissive role in the regeneration of muscle tissue”. (2)
If you are to continue to build and tone your muscles, your body needs time to do the necessary repair work.
Sleep Deprivation Slows More Than Muscle Recovery
Sleep deprivation can hit your body hard, especially if you’re putting in extra time at the gym.
Without adequate sleep more than just your muscle recovery slow down.
Neurons in the brain reduce the speed at which they send messages, affecting decision-making skills, reaction times, and reasoning abilities. (3)
While you sleep, the immune system recharges itself and fights off infection. When you don’t spend enough time sleeping, it doesn’t have time to complete its work. (4)
A depressed immune system leaves you more susceptible to and increases the duration of illness.
Chronic sleep deprivation could also interfere with a healthy diet.
When sleep-deprived, the body releases more hunger hormone and less satiety hormone. (5)
It also craves high-fat, sugary foods because the reward center of the brain gets more rewards than usual. (6)
Sleep deprivation puts you at risk for overeating and unwanted weight gain.
Improve The Quantity And Quality Of Your Sleep
Sleep disturbances can come from any number of sources such as stress, poor habits, or underlying medical conditions.
All the behaviors and patterns in your life that affect your sleep are called your sleep hygiene.
Developing healthy sleep hygiene is key to improving the overall quality and quantity of your sleep, which implicit improves muscle recovery.
Here’s what you need to do to improve your sleeping time:
1. Keep A Consistent Bedtime
Your sleep-wake cycle is controlled by your circadian rhythms, which are 24-hour biological and physiological cycles. (7)
A consistent bedtime allows your body to adjust and support your natural circadian rhythms. Try to keep the same bedtime on weekends so that you’re not fighting sleep debt on Monday morning.
2. Wake-Up At The Same Time Every Day
A consistent wake-up time also supports and establishes your circadian rhythms.
Try to keep the same wake-up time on weekends as well.
3. Establish A Bedtime Routine
If you have trouble falling asleep, a bedtime routine can help you release tension and stress while triggering the release of melatonin, a sleep hormone.
Any activity that helps you relax like reading a book or drinking a warm cup of milk makes a good addition to your routine.
Try to perform your bedtime routine at the same time and in the same order each day.
4. Regularly Space And Timed Meals
A well-balanced diet gives you the nutrients you need, but it’s not just the food you eat that makes a difference. It’s when you eat it.
The timing of your meals influences your circadian rhythms.
Eating regularly spaced and timed meals can help your brain know when to release sleep hormones.
High-fat, sugary foods consumed too close to bed can cause indigestion, and most people sleep better when they eat an early, light dinner.
If you need a late-night snack, choose foods like a banana or almonds that promote the production of melatonin.
5. Avoid Stimulants
The caffeine found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks temporarily blocks melatonin.
Avoid consuming any stimulant for the four hours before bed.
6. Regular Exercise
Exercise helps you feel more tired at night and keeps your blood pressure and heart rate down.
However, a word of caution — strenuous exercise done within four hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep cycle.
The rise in body temperature along with the release of endorphins and adrenaline delays the onset of sleep.
7. Turn Off Screens
The bright blue light from electronic devices can suppress the release of melatonin. (8)
Turn off televisions, laptops, smartphones, and iPads to prevent a delay in your sleep onset.
Check to see if any of your devices have a low blue light setting that you can activate at night.
Address Underlying Issues And Stress
If stress keeps you awake at night, you may need to address ways to manage it for the sake of your sleep.
Meditation and yoga have both been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep quality.
Fifteen to twenty minutes of meditation or yoga a day can change how your brain works, by strengthening the reasoning center of the brain and its connection to your emotional center. (9)
However, you can reduce stress by incorporating meditation or yoga into your bedtime routine. Even five minutes of practice a day can make a difference to your mental health.
Even with good sleep hygiene and stress management, you might struggle to get enough rest. And when you don’t get enough rest, muscle recovery slows down.
So you may need to consult a physician to check for an underlying sleep disorder like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, or hypersomnia. In these cases, medication can often make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.
Healthy sleep habits improve muscle recovery and give your body the time it needs to reach its full potential.
Sleep isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.