Guest Post: Sleep Your Way to Better Muscle Recovery
It's no news that I am a HUGE believer in the importance of sleep as it relates to every aspect of health. I am super excited to share a guest post with you this month that takes the importance of sleep one step further: muscle recovery. This post is coming from one of the fabulous writers at Tuck Sleep, a site dedicated to evidence-based sleep health information, news, and unbiased product reviews. Enjoy :)
Sleep Your Way to Better Muscle Recovery
Adequate sleep acts as a healthy starting point for many of your body’s major organs, systems, and functions. When it comes to building and maintaining muscle tone, sleep is absolutely essential. While you need intense workouts to achieve more muscle mass, all your efforts will be wasted without seven to nine hours of sleep. Why? Because sleep is when the body gets to work rebuilding everything you’ve damaged during the day.
Tear It Down to Build It Up
The process of building muscle requires the creation of micro tears in the muscle tissue. These tears can come from intense workouts, overuse, or even injury (which can cause far more than micro tears). The repair of these tears takes place while you rest, but not just any kind of rest—sleep.
Sleep is far more complex than many of us realize. Every night you go through five to six sleep cycles, entering five stages in each cycle. During stage III sleep, the first of the deep sleep stages, the body releases growth hormone (GH), which triggers the muscle repair process.
Normally, GH peaks during the first sleep cycle of the night. It’s released again in increasingly smaller amounts during stage III sleep of the following sleep cycles. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have time to release the necessary GH for muscle recovery.
GH release also changes if you alter your sleep schedule. For example, going to bed two to three hours late causes a lower than normal GH peak to take place not in the first but the second sleep cycle of the night. In this case, GH levels never reach their normal amounts and you’re left with a similar result to sleep deprivation—not enough GH for complete muscle recovery.
Muscle recovery comes into play not only when you’re dealing with intense workouts but recovering from normal daily wear and tear on the muscle. To stay strong, keep up energy levels, and feel your best, you have to get enough sleep.
More Sleep Through Better Habits
Most of your daily habits and behaviors affect your sleep. Here are some simple ways to improve the quality (and quantity) of your sleep:
Take Comfort Seriously: A bedroom that’s kept between 60 to 68 degrees allows your body to maintain a lower temperature necessary for sleep. An old, lumpy mattress can cause wakefulness as well as aches and pains in the morning. If it’s time for something new, look for one that supports your weight and preferred sleep style. Not sure of your sleep style? Medium-firm mattresses work well for the average sized-person and most sleep styles.
Eat Sleep Supportive Foods: Foods that contain melatonin, a natural sleep hormone, or other nutrients used in the production of melatonin can help support better sleep, especially when eaten as a late night snack. Cherries, bananas, almonds, and walnuts are all healthy and can give your melatonin production a boost before bed.
Shut Off Screens Early: Blue light suppresses sleep hormones so any devices like televisions, laptops, and smartphones that emit it should be shut off two to three hours before bed. Some devices have a low light nighttime setting that can also help.
Exercise Early in the Day: Strenuous exercise done within four hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep due to a rise in body temperature and release of adrenaline.
Better sleep can improve how you feel and function in all aspects of your life, and muscle recovery relies on it. To give your body everything it needs to recover, recharge, and get strong, move sleep up your priority list.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.