Counting sheep is just as important as counting reps if you want to optimise your results in the gym.
Muscle is not actually grown whilst lifting weights. Tissue is stimulated and torn during your training, but your body grows during recovery. Unsurprisingly, sleep is an enormous part of recovery, and has a bigger impact than you might think.
The type of sleep you’re getting will significantly impact your recovery. There are 2 main types:
REM (rapid eye movement) sleep: also known as light sleep, this is where stimulus is sent to the brain and aids mental recovery – which is still essential for your workouts! If your head isn’t in the game, you won’t reap the rewards from your sessions.
Non-REM sleep: also known as deep sleep, this is where blood is better circulated to the body’s tissue due to reduced brain activity. Breathing deepens and more oxygen is taken in and transported around the body which helps facilitate growth. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is also secreted from the pituitary gland during this period, which stimulates muscle repair and growth.
Lack of sleep may lower you workout intensity, which will negatively impact your muscle development. This is due to insufficient glycogen stores in the body’s muscles, as these are best replenished during sleep.
Your diet will also impact the benefit you get from sleep. When sufficient carbohydrates and protein is consumed, the body is better able to produce HGH. Since we know this is an essential for muscle growth and repair, fuelling up throughout the day will help make the most of your shut-eye.
A 2011 study followed a group of individuals all on calorie regulated diets. One group was allowed 5.5 hours sleep per day, while the other was allowed 8.5 hours per day. At the end of the test period, the group on 5.5 hours had an average loss of 40% muscle mass. Whereas the group on 8.5 hours experienced an average growth of 60%.
Every person has different requirements based upon their age, activity level, and size. A widely recognised recommendation is to aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per day.
We can’t always nod off easily, but here are some tips that may help improve your sleep quality:
• Avoid screens before bed
• Try to form a regular sleep pattern
• Try a bedtime ritual (reading, herbal tea, etc…)
• Exercise daily – if you want the best success with this, speak to one of our trainers
• Listen to quiet music
• Black out your sleeping space.