The Importance of Sleep for Muscle Recovery

The Importance of Sleep for Muscle Recovery

It can be frustrating to workout hard, eat right, and live a healthy lifestyle yet not see the results you want. Many people put the necessary hours in at the gym, but they forget one important thing—sleep.

This necessary biological function keeps your brain and body working at peak efficiency. If you’re looking for better results from your workout, you might try making sure you get a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Building Muscle While You Sleep

When you’re asleep, your body doesn’t need as much energy to function. Your heart rate and metabolism slow down, which leaves extra energy for the body to restore, rebuild, and rejuvenate itself. While the work you do in the gym is important, it’s not actually where you build muscle. Lifting weights and physical activity break down muscle tissue. The important part, the building of more muscle, takes place while
you sleep.

All the protein you eat during the day gets put to good while you’re not using your energy anything other than sleep. It’s combined with a growth hormone produced during deep sleep to repair broken down muscle tissue.
Those repairs make you bigger and stronger, but you have to reach the deep stages of sleep to fully rebuild your muscles.

Reaching Deep Sleep

Sleep can be broken down into four stages—near-awake (stage 1), sleep onset (stage 2), deep and restorative sleep (stage 3), deep REM or dream state (stage 4). It’s when you get into stages 3 and 4 that muscle rebuilding takes place.

The body cycles through the sleep stages throughout the night and reaching those deep stages takes time. You don’t start to hit the deeper levels until about 90 minutes into your sleep cycle. If you’re not reaching those deep levels, your body doesn’t have time to rebuild muscle the way it should, and your muscles aren’t the only thing suffer.

Sleep and the Brain

The brain uses sleep time to clean itself out, flushing out old fluid so synapses can fire at top speed. It also cleans up any connections made during the day by strengthening those you’ll continue to use and eliminating those you won’t. A well-rested brain means better reaction times, reasoning ability, and decision-making skills, which are all necessary for enhanced physical performance.

How to Get Better, Deeper Sleep

Better, deeper sleep can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Good eating and sleeping habits are key to unlocking your full potential.

Create the Right Conditions: Set yourself up for success with a bedroom devoted solely to sleep. A comfortable mattress, cool temperature (between 60-68 degrees), and complete darkness can help you drift off to sleep and stay asleep.

Eat Healthy and Smart: Everything you eat throughout the day can impact your sleep at night. Well-balanced, regularly timed meals help establish your circadian rhythms, which control your sleep cycle. Avoid high-fat heavy food, especially close to bedtime. If you need a late night snack, try foods like milk or almonds that promote the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.

Keep a Consistent Bedtime and Wake Up: If you’re going to get seven hours of sleep, you have to go to bed a reasonable time every day, even weekends. When you keep a consistent bedtime you help your brain know when to start releasing the hormones that make you feel sleepy. You also need to wake up at the same time each day in support of your circadian rhythms.

^ Editor’s Note: Tuck Sleep Foundation is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.