The Importance of Sleep for Proper Recovery

The Importance of Sleep for Proper Recovery

Authored by Audrey on January 7, 2021

We all know the feeling of dragging ourselves out of bed when we’d much rather sleep in. According to experts, this is usually caused by one of two things: staying up too late or poor sleep quality. In fact, it is believed that around 35% of adults and up to 85% of teens don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is bad news for anyone and can have serious health consequences, both physical and mental. However, when it comes to athletic performance, the effects of poor sleep on muscle recovery are truly shocking. 

Turns out a good night’s sleep before a competition is not only advisable – it is essential. This is because rest is essential for muscle recovery and sleep is the optimal form of rest for your body. It is when you sleep that your body gains the benefits of your workout and carries out all-important maintenance that lets you come back better and stronger the next day. 

Sleep, therefore, is more than just a part of an all-around healthy lifestyle. Sleep may, in fact, be the deciding factor when it comes to smashing your training and fitness goals. Experts even suggest that the current sleep guidelines (7-9 hours per night) are not enough for athletes, who should aim for around 10. So, why is sleep so important for an athlete’s body and how can you improve your sleep schedule to boost your training performance? We delve into the evidence to find out! 

Sleep Supports Healthy Immune Response  

Sleep helps regulate the overall function of your body by supporting your immune system. A properly functioning immune system is a vital component of good health. Your immune system helps your body ward off disease and is also important for muscle recovery. 

This is because the process of muscle recovery and growth relies heavily on the immune response. When you train your muscles, with an aim to making them stronger, you perform resistance movements that damage the muscles. These movements break down the fibers and proteins that form the muscles and create inflammation. The immune response then kicks in and repairs this damaged area, rebuilding the muscle to make it larger and stronger than before. Not only does this process require a fast and effective immune response it also takes place during rest – not during your workout. Therefore, sleep is crucial for muscle recovery after workout sessions where you’ve challenged your muscles and aimed to gain strength.

Sleep Allows You to Process Information

Your body doesn’t only work on muscle recovery while sleeping, it also restores and refreshes cognitive function. During sleep, your body has the bandwidth to process new information learned throughout the day and create new neural pathways. This is not only important for memory and mental activity but aids the formation of things like muscle memory. 

Without this, athletes will not be able to progress as effectively with their training as they will find it harder to learn new skills and build upon those already learned. Poor sleep can also affect skills like physical coordination. Coordination is essential for athletes moving through routines or making quick, effective movements. 

The scariest part? It’s impossible to shortcut a lack of sleep by ‘catching up’ at the weekend or after a competition has passed. In fact, if you fail to get adequate sleep for several nights in a row, your tiredness will accumulate into what is referred to as a ‘sleep debt.’ Even if you do then oversleep, your cognitive and physical ability will likely remain impaired for some time. Doing this consistently is associated with long-term health consequences, like heart disease, cancer, and memory problems. Remember that next time you plan to stay out late and train early the next morning!

Lack of Sleep Affects Your Hormones 

Hormones play an important role in muscle recovery time and muscle growth. One of the hormonal reasons that sleep for muscle recovery is especially important is the release of HGH (human growth hormone) during REM sleep. During normal sleep (when we sleep for 7-9 hours per night), our body moves through several sleep cycles. Sleep cycles are around 90 minutes on average and alternate between the REM (rapid eye movement) phase and deep sleep. REM sleep is vital for the muscle recovery process as it is during this time that the body and mind make major repairs and parse information gathered the previous day. REM also accumulates throughout the night so the longer you sleep, the more effective this process. 

Sleep Regulates Muscle Recovery and Weight Loss 

It is not only those looking to build muscle who should aim for quality sleep, but also people who want to lose weight. Based on a study by Columbia University, researchers determined that people who were sleep-deprived showed greater interest in high-calorie foods compared to those with adequate sleep. Hunger is largely regulated by hormones and, since lack of sleep can damage hormone profiles, consistent exhaustion could lead us to overeat. 

Sleep can also impact the production of hormones, such as insulin, that regulate glucose levels. Elevated insulin levels over time can lead to insulin resistance and can cause us to feel low on energy even when we’ve technically consumed enough. Excess calorie consumption can lead to weight gain, and insulin resistance is a key factor in the development of Type 2 Diabetes. 

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

If you’re an athlete or someone who trains regularly, it’s important to develop a good muscle recovery routine. This should include a muscle recovery day after workout sessions, good nutrition, and (most importantly) a consistent sleep schedule. Here’s what experts suggest: 

  • Eat Protein Before Sleep 

While junk and high calories foods looked appetizing to those who had not had enough sleep, some foods are believed to be sleep supporting. High protein foods like Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and walnuts are great options for an evening snack. It’s also a good idea for muscle recovery to incorporate a protein powder or pre-workout shake into your routine. If you are interested you can try some of the best pre workout for women.

  • Practice Self-Care 

Most athletes know a thing or two about self-care. From icing your joints after a tough session to stocking up on some healthy carbs after a long run. Rest is vital for muscle recovery and should always be prioritized, even during a competitive training routine as this is where your body really does the work.

  • Give Yourself a Bedtime Routine

While getting a great night’s sleep is advisable, it isn’t always easy. You can make it gentler on yourself by creating and sticking to a night-time routine. Try to go to bed at the same time every now and relax before you do. Perhaps take a soothing hot bath, set a curfew on screen time, and make sure your room is at a comfortable temperature. 

Conclusion 

So, does lack of sleep affect muscle recovery? The research certainly seems to point in this direction. To get the most from your athletic training, aim to get at least 9 hours of sleep per night and take rest and recovery days during your schedule. This will help you get the most from your body while supporting your physical development and overall health.

Final Call: Do you get enough sleep? How do you help yourself stick to a positive sleep schedule? Let us know in the comments! 

Author’s Bio: Thomas Nemel is an all-around fitness fanatic. He enthusiastically builds his dream body, enjoying karate classes, loves weight training, and blogging in his own time.