You may be ready to push yourself to lift heavier weights or run faster times, but it takes more than determination to reach your goals. It may be counterintuitive, but what you may actually need is sleep. Building a stronger, healthier body is a continuing process in which the body needs time to heal, build, and rejuvenate. While your time in the gym is essential, you need sleep to hit your full potential.
Sleep for Muscle Recovery and Enhanced Performance
Heavy training or even a new workout can create micro-tears in the muscle tissue. We’re all well acquainted with rest days—the days you don’t push your body. Muscle recovery does take place on rest days, bit it during sleep that rebuilding goes into high gear.
The repair of micro-tears requires the presence of human growth hormone, which gets released in it’s heaviest doses during slow wave sleep. Your typical seven hours of sleep is consists of five or six 60 to 90-minute sleep cycles. Human growth hormone reaches its peak during the first cycle and, while released in all subsequent cycles, the amount released steadily goes down throughout the night.
If you cut your sleep cycle short or even if you go to bed late, the release of human growth hormone gets altered. Without enough sleep, your muscles don’t spend enough time in slow wave sleep to repair themselves as they should. And, as you age, your body gets less efficient at the release and use of growth hormone, which makes getting enough sleep that much more important.
Adequate sleep can also enhance your athletic performance. Stanford’s men’s basketball team improved their sprint times, free throw percentages, and three-point field goal percentages by extending their sleep time. Their moods stabilized and players reported more satisfaction in all aspects of their lives.
You may not be an elite athlete, but sleep will help you get more out of your workouts and improve your performance on the court, road, or field.
Sleep Better and Smarter
You need sleep, but how do you get more? And what about quality? Not all sleep is the same. Your body needs to enter all sleep stages to fully recover. It’s not always as easy as closing your eyes, but there are ways to train your mind and body to fall and stay asleep.
Create the Right Conditions: Check your mattress. If it looks more like a canoe than a bed, it’s time for something new. You want a model that’s comfortable, firm enough for your weight, and reduces motion transferal, especially if you share your bed with a partner.
Set a Bedtime: As simple as this sounds, a consistent bedtime is one of the easiest but most powerful ways to enhance your sleep. For the best results, go to bed at the same time on weekdays and weekends so you’re not behind on sleep come Monday morning.
Use a Routine: You’re not a kid anymore, but that doesn’t mean a bedtime routine can’t lull you to sleep. Routines act as a trigger that sets the brain in motion and starts the sleep cycle.
Eat Better and More Consistently: Meal timing plays a part in the onset of the sleep cycle. Eat your meals at regular times and evenly spaced throughout the day. Dinner should be eaten early, but keep it light to prevent uncomfortable indigestion or heartburn.
Muscle repair, energy levels, and appetite control all rely on sleep. It acts as a foundation on which you can build an active lifestyle. When you’re getting at least seven hours, your body can function as it was intended. Move sleep higher on your priority list and start building habits that will support your workout goals.