Bodybuilders are always looking for effective ways to gain muscle. Many have resulted in following sophisticated training routines, new diets, and the use of supplements. While all such remedies are effective, none can substitute sleep. Most bodybuilders believe that exercise leads to better sleep, but studies now show there is a bidirectional relationship between rest and exercise. A weightlifting session usually leaves your body all geared up for quality sleep. Turns out that sleep also aids in a productive strength training session.
Recent research shows that poor sleep leads to low physical activity levels. This is because the body has not fully recovered from the previous workout and does not have enough muscle strength. The next part of the article explains how sleep results in fitness gains.
Why Sleep is Important
Sleep has many essential functions. For fitness enthusiasts, the primary functions are increasing mental alertness and repairing muscles. Sleep affects these two functions directly. As such, inadequate sleep makes your time at the gym, a waste of time. Here’s how sleep performs the two functions:
1. Muscle Repair
During sleep, the body produces the human growth hormone. In men, 60-70% of the daily growth hormone is released during the deepest sleep cycle. This phase is also referred to as the non-rapid eye movement stage when the body replenishes immune cells, restores bones, organs, and tissue, and circulates the human growth hormone.
Remember sleep, on the other hand, allows the muscles to relax, relieving tension and pain. Quality sleep (8-10 hours) also aids in protein synthesis. The long hours of sleep cause the body to enter a starvation mode hence the need to eat before going to sleep. The food eaten reverses the process and increases protein synthesis. Protein synthesis occurs in the gastrointestinal tract during sleep to enhance muscle growth.
2. Reduce Energy Consumption
Reduced energy consumption is a biological mechanism that enables the body to reserve energy. Without adequate sleep, the body would need more meals per day. Bodybuilders, for example, would need 4-6 meals a day.
3. Increase Mental Alertness
Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that produces an energy-storage molecule called ATP that tells the brain when it needs to rest. Adequate sleep reduces adenosine levels in the brain and enhances mental alertness during the day. Sleep loss, on the other hand, leads to elevated levels of adenosine production causing the athlete to feel tired and groggy. A study on basketball players showed that those who added two hours of sleep to their nightly schedule exhibited a 5% increase in reaction time.
4. Protect Against Injuries
A study conducted at the University of California found that injury rates among young athletes were higher following a night of six or fewer hours of sleep. Another study examining the injury rates among high school athletes found that sleep hours was the strongest cause of injuries. This is because short recovery periods don’t provide the body with time to repair muscles and regenerate cells.
How Much Sleep Does an Athlete Need
According to sleep experts, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep while teens need 9-10 hours of sleep. Athletes who fall asleep within 20 minutes and don’t need an alarm to wake up are probably getting adequate sleep. The good news is that a sleepless night does not always lead to negative performance. However, athletes who have trouble getting to sleep can develop a routine to lure their bodies into falling asleep. Here are useful tips:
· Develop a pre-bed routine before going to sleep. It allows your body to wind down and ease into sleep
· Change your mattress. If you have an old mattress that causes your body to ache after waking up, it’s time to change it. The right mattress e.g. a hybrid mattress from excellent manufactures, for example, Brooklyn Bedding is an excellent substitute for enhancing sleep quality
· Avoid using electric devices an hour before going to sleep. This is because the blue light reduces melatonin production, a hormone that helps the mind fall asleep
· Eliminate noise and ensure the room is dark. You can wear earplugs or use dark curtains if you are sensitive to light
· Develop a circadian rhythm to ensure you have a regular sleep and wake time
· Avoid taking large meals before bedtime
· Take naps during the day if you can’t get enough sleep during the night
· Avoid engaging in any stimulating activity before going to bed
· Avoid taking alcohol or caffeine as it increases the time your mind needs to fall asleep
· Take a warm bath to soothe and relax the body into sleep
· Avoid oversleeping. It only sets the body up for a different cycle which makes falling asleep harder
Sleep is critical to maintaining a healthy body. For bodybuilders, it is the key to unlocking fitness gains. Sleep plays an essential role in an athlete’s reaction time, motivation, muscle recovery, injury risk, to mention a few. As such, athletes should develop healthy sleep patterns as it makes the difference between winning and losing.