How much sleep did you get last night?
If it was less than eight hours (I know everyone requires a different amount), you are not help your body produce the muscle gains you want.
Now, I am 100% guilty of sometimes stealing time away from my sleep to get all my ‘to do’s’ done. You have likely had some late nights or early mornings yourself when you know you are not rested. You can relate to how much more difficult it is to get in a great workout that day. During those days it is normal to crave more sugary foods because your body is looking for quick, easy energy to overcome the fatigue.
There are many reasons not to deprive yourself of a full night’s rest, one of which is how your body reacts to this routine. In addition to the points above, sleep also has a huge physical impact on muscle recovery.
Here is a quick summary on what is happening when you exercise. Your body is breaking down muscle tissue to repair and regrow stronger. Basically, during each weight repetition, you are proving to your body that the area of your body you are training is not strong enough for the daily requirements of the work demanded, so that area needs to be strengthened.
You have to be consistent with your training and put effort in to see results. If you are not pushing yourself during your workout, there is no need for your body to adapt and change. Your body only adapts and changes when it sees it can’t perform the work demanded of it, so it needs to grow stronger.
Next, the body needs the right foods to effectively develop lean muscle mass
Additionally, the body needs to be able to focus on the recovery of the damaged muscle tissues, and that happens during rest, in other words, when you sleep.
There are two stages of sleep, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. The brain follows cycles during sleep, which occur in bouts of 90 to 120 minutes. REM is usually later in your sleep cycle, closer to when you will be waking up. REM energizes your brain and keeps your decision-making abilities sharp. Non-REM is essential for muscle repair and development, and takes up about 40% of your total sleep time.
During non-REM sleep, the brain is less active, so the muscles are able to demand an increased blood supply to enable them to grow. Your pituitary gland also releases growth hormones during non-REM sleep, which, as you may have guessed by the name, aids the muscles in growth.
To fully benefit by your body’s natural recovery process and promote your best health, experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night – of course, this range does vary by person.
Hack Your Sleep
If you aren’t convinced to prioritize your sleep to help with your muscle gains, this data may convince you: in 2011, researchers discovered that people who consistently get 5.5 hours of sleep a night had 60% LESS muscle mass than those who got 8.5 hours of sleep.
Here are some simple tips to enjoy good quality sleep:
- Avoid caffeine in the evenings
- Eat before bed so you don’t got to bed hungry, but don’t make it a large meal, have something relatively light (ie: protein shake)
- Don’t exercise late at night if possible
- Avoid watching TV/movies or texting on your phone right before sleep
- Relax your body (and further promote muscle recovery) by soaking in a warm bath before you turn in at night
- Try to stick to a consistent sleep routine all week and weekend
- Try to destress your life, and don’t take on upsetting tasks or conversations at night
- Don’t use sleeping pills
Check out this pretty great interactive infographic that explains what’s going on during a good night’s rest!