Does Sleep Improve Strength and Muscle Gains?
You've heard it all before, and the fact that sleep is good for your health is well-known. Yet, too many of us don't get enough sleep. Even worse, many of us treat sleep as time wasting.
Although, to some people, eight hours of lying in your bed each day might seem like you are wasting 1/3 of your life away, it is entirely the opposite. Making sure you get proper rest in that third will make your other two-thirds of life so much better.
In this article, you will discover just why sleep could be the key to unlocking your strength and muscle gains. You will why it is so essential for your health and fitness and you'll also learn signs of sleep deprivation to make sure you don't sacrifice your hard work by sleeping too little.
How Does Sleep Affect Muscle Building?
It is a common misconception that muscles grow in the gym; you may already know that isn't the case. They develop during your rest periods and when are you more at rest than when sleeping?
When you lift weights, you create "damage" to your muscles and connective tissues. Your body immediately begins the repair process, which usually lasts around 48 hours.. The repair process involves elevating protein synthesis levels to rebuild your muscle tissues and allow them to gradually start growing.
Sleep is essential for maximising this recovery period since it is the only real time that you are almost completely at rest and your body is allowed to go through the recovery process without interruption.
The following sections will outline some areas where sleeping more can have some profound effects on your muscle size and strength.
Sleep Improves Performance
One of the crucial factors for building muscle is progressive overload, which is very much performance based. You increase the weight/volume, and you continue doing that over and over again. Our body is adapting very quickly, and if you want to keep adding more muscles, you need to give it new challenges. In other words, you need to challenge your body to work harder over time
That is something that is never going to happen if you are sleep deprived. If you are always tired, tit becomes very difficult to consistently work harder and improve your performance.
Yes, you could supplement with pre-workouts to give you that needed kick. Although, the caffeine in them could present further sleep problems if you train in the late afternoon or evening. Considering the fact that you took pre-workout because you are not sleeping enough in the first place, all this becomes a vicious circle that will lead you to sleep deprivation and caffeine reliance. It certainly won't lead you to gains and a healthy lifestyle.
Now, I'm not totally against certain forms of pre-workouts, you can see which I suggest in this list of supplements that actually work, but they should never be relied on as a substitute for areas of your lifestyle that could simply be improved.
Lower Injury Risk When Well-Rested
When you are sleep deprived, your concentration and reaction times will significantly decrease. That will make you prone to mistakes, and if you are less concentrated, you are more likely to exercise with poor form, which can cause injuries. And of course, if you are injured, you will not be able to work out, and your progress will start to suffer.
I have always preached that the individuals who make the most gains are the ones that are able to stay injury-free for the longest. I feel this is even more true for strength sports where it becomes much harder to work around an injury and still make progress.
Increased Hormone Production During Sleep
Testosterone, the king of all anabolic hormones is released in higher amounts during sleep. We all know how important it is for muscle building as it is the number one reason why men are more muscular than women, and unfortunately, it is the favorite steroid among bodybuilders.
Besides testosterone, our body also releases IGF-1, which is another hormone that helps muscles grow.
Another hormone that is often misused by athletes is released during deep sleep - HGH (human growth hormone). It helps reproduction and growth of our cells.
Furthermore, if we don't get enough sleep, two hormones that are tied to the appetite get disrupted. Leptin, which is responsible for reducing appetite falls, while the levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, significantly rise. This will cause increased food cravings, and it might cause unwanted weight gain.
Moreover, sleep reduces production of bad, catabolic, hormones such as cortisol. Catabolic hormones are the opposite of anabolic, and they basically break down your muscles, which is something you want to avoid as much as possible.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
If you are sleep deprived, you will notice some apparent symptoms such as yawning and tiredness but, not getting enough sleep can cause other more troubling problems such as the inability to concentrate and perform deep, focused work.
It can also cause irritability, memory issues, mood swings and even suicidal thoughts and depression in severe cases.
The issue is that when chronically not getting enough sleep, you will not notice your lower energy levels, because you will think of them as normal. But just try to get recommended amounts of sleep for a single week and you will rapidly start noticing some major improvements.
How Much Sleep is Enough for Strength and Muscle Building?
First, it is not only about how much, but it is also about when. Nothing can replace night sleep. Our bodies are designed to be active during the day, and if you are a night owl, the chances are that your cortisol levels are going to be higher, even if you get 9 hours of sleep during daytime. And we have already explained how cortisol destroys your muscles.
Now, as for the amount, you have heard a million times how you should get eight hours of quality sleep per night. This is still the recommended amount for most people although, there are some variances depending on your age.
Note: even if you can't get full eight hours in a single sleep session, try to reach it in total, through afternoon naps. Even sleeping longer on weekends can help your health but nothing can replace those eight hours per night, so do your best to get that whenever possible.
Final Thoughts on Sleeping to Build Muscle and Strength
Sleep has numerous positive effects on the human organism, and muscle growth is one of them. No matter how hard you work out, your results will start lagging if you don't get enough sleep.
The good news is that physical activity is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep quality, which means you are already on the right track. The second thing that affects sleep quality is nutrition but if you are following a healthy diet, which is also crucial for your results, you are going to sleep just fine.
The important thing is that you don't neglect sleep. Recovery is an often-overlooked part of the muscle building triangle that involves exercising and nutrition.
Get your eight hours of sleep per night, and you will start noticing better muscle gains.
Read this article written by a sleep expert for some how to improve your sleep-quality for better gains..