The Importance of Sleep for Muscle Recovery

Building strength and endurance takes exercise and a well-balanced diet. However, there’s one factor that’s often forgotten – sleep. As a necessary biological function, you would think sleep would be at the top of everyone’s priority list. But it’s often taken for granted and regarded as an afterthought. If you’re working on improving your physical fitness and building muscle, sleep has more impact on your success than you might think.

Sleep Stages and Muscle Recovery

The average adult needs seven to eight full hours of sleep for the body to fully rest and recover.

Within those hours, the body cycles through five sleep stages. During the first two stages, the mind and body begin to slow down and fall asleep. It’s during stages three and four that the brain enters slow wave or Delta sleep where the important work for muscle recovery begins. The fifth and final stage of sleep is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, wherein brain and eye activity become similar to that experienced during the day.

The body takes about 90 minutes to reach its first REM stage, though the body will cycle through all stages throughout the night.  It’s important to spend enough time in the final three stages because that’s when the body releases growth hormone. When you don’t rest for enough hours each night, you don’t give your body a chance to reach these important stages as often as needed, slowing musclegrowth and recovery.

Lack of sleep slows down both normal daily muscle recovery and recovery from injury. Studies exploring the connection between recovery from a muscle injury and sleep have found that rest may “permit” the repair of damaged muscle tissue. Without it, the body doesn’t go to work repairing tissue the way it should.

How to Get Better (and More) Sleep

It’s one thing to know you need more sleep and another to actually get it. Stress, medical conditions, and changing life circumstances can all get in the way of getting enough rest. By making sleep a priority, you can give both mind and body a chance to function at their best.

 

There are several medical sleep disorders and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most common forms.  In fact, some reports suggest that as many as 25% of men and 10% of women have OSA – but most have yet to be diagnosed.  Use ZendyHealth’s Virtual Primary Care on-demand doctoror get a home sleep studyfor less than $200 to test for apnea.  It’s highly affordable, easy to do, and can be done in one night in your own home.

 

Good sleep starts with the right equipment and conditions. A mattress that’s designed to support your preferred sleep position, as well as your height and weight, can make all the difference in the quality of your sleep. If you’re not sure what works for you, check mattress reviews. You can also create a good sleep environment by eliminating any light, sound, or other distractions that could wake you during the night.

Your habits and behaviors also play an important role in the quality of your sleep. You can try:

  • Spending More Time Outside: Exposure to natural light helps correctly time the release of sleep hormones.
  • Going to Bed on Time: Establishing a regular bedtime allows your body to adapt to your sleep-wake schedule. As you consistently go to bed on time, your body will know when to automatically release sleep hormones.
  • Avoiding Stimulants: Stimulants like caffeine block sleep hormones. They should be avoided for at least four hours before bedtime.
  • Smart Late-Night Snacks: While you don’t want to eat a big meal before bed, a light late-night snack can be enough to get you through until morning. Try to eat foods such as bananas, yogurt, and almonds that help in the production of sleep hormones.

 

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