If there’s one aspect of training that many athletes neglect, it’s the importance of sleep for muscle recovery. But that’s when the magic happens.
Whatever your athletic or fitness goals, effort and consistency matter. So after a great workout, you may think that the bulk of your effort is done, but getting a great night of sleep is essential to maximize your strengthening routine and muscle recovery.
Before doing a deep dive into the importance of sleep for muscle recovery growth, it’s important to understand the two main stages of sleep: REM and NREM.
- REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is a time of significant brain activity and is believed to be essential to cognitive functions like memory, learning, and creativity. It’s also the stage where your most vivid dreams occur.
- Non-REM, or NREM sleep is the phase of sleep when your body physically repairs itself from the day.
What happens to our muscles when we work out
During a training session, you’re challenging your muscles to handle higher levels of resistance or weight than they normally do, which breaks down the muscle tissue, causing microscopic tears—all perfectly normal. This “damage” activates cells from outside the muscle fibers, which rush to the area of the tears, then replicate, mature into grown cells, and fuse to your muscle fibers. This process is what forms new muscle protein strands and, over time, increases muscle strength and mass.
What happens to our muscles when we sleep
When you sleep, your body undergoes several physiological changes that contribute to muscle recovery.
Does sleep help muscle recovery?
Sleep is an essential part of muscle recovery. It is during sleep that the body undergoes several physiological changes that aid in the repair and recovery of damaged tissues. Lack of sleep can result in decreased muscle recovery, slow down the healing process, and lead to a catabolic environment.
How sleep aids muscle recovery
Research confirms that regular and adequate sleep helps repair and restore muscles, increases muscle strength and mass, and improves athletic performance. With so many benefits, sleep should be an integral part of every athlete’s and exercise enthusiast’s workout regimen.
Here are some of the key ways that sleep helps with muscle recovery:
1. Muscle repair and growth
During sleep, the body releases human growth hormone (HGH), which plays a crucial role in muscle repair and growth. HGH stimulates protein synthesis, the process by which damaged muscle fibers are repaired and new muscle tissue is built.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the more deep sleep you get, the more HGH is released. Conversely, when you skimp on sleep, there’s less growth hormone secretion. According to another study, a deficiency of HGH is linked to loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity. It’s worth noting that both HGH and slow-wave sleep naturally decrease as we age.
2. Muscle glycogen is replenished when you get your eight hours
When we get quality sleep, our bodies also replenish muscle glycogen, a critical energy source that gets depleted when we work out.
3. Sleep regulates protein synthesis
Myofibrillar proteins are the building blocks of myofibrils—tube-shaped cells that chain together to form muscle fibers. So what does this have to do with sleep?
As with most things, sleep is the great regulator! New research has begun exploring the importance of sleep and how a lack of sleep may lead to loss of muscle mass and decreased muscle recovery.
One study found that a group of men who were sleep deprived and then exercised had less myofibrillar protein synthesis, which would likely result in decreased muscle mass over time. Another study found a broader relationship between sleep duration and muscle mass. That study compared two groups of people that either slept 5.5 or 8.5 hours while reducing their caloric intake. The shorter-sleep group lost more muscle mass than fat. Whether it is through myofibrillar protein synthesis or other pathways, it’s clear that sleep and muscle growth and recovery are closely linked.
4. Glycogen replenishment
Sleep is also important for replenishing muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose, which provides energy for muscle contractions during exercise. During sleep, the body restores glycogen levels, ensuring that muscles have enough fuel for optimal performance.
5. Hormonal regulation
Sleep helps regulate hormone levels that are important for muscle recovery. Testosterone, a hormone that promotes muscle growth and repair, is primarily released during sleep. Lack of sleep can disrupt testosterone production, which may negatively impact muscle recovery.
6. Inflammation reduction
Sleep plays a role in reducing inflammation in the body. Intense exercise can cause muscle damage and inflammation. During sleep, the body releases anti-inflammatory cytokines that help reduce inflammation and promote healing.
7. Muscle relaxation
During sleep, the body enters a state of relaxation, and the muscles are able to rest and recover. This relaxation allows for the release of tension and promotes muscle recovery.
Does lack of sleep impact muscle recovery?
Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on muscle recovery. Here are some key findings from the search results:
- Sleep is essential for muscle recovery. When we sleep, our body undergoes several physiological changes that aid in the repair and recovery of damaged tissues. These changes are necessary for muscle recovery, especially after a workout or an injury.
- Sleep deprivation can impair both muscular endurance and strength, with participants performing fewer repetitions and lifting less weight compared to when they were well-rested.
- Sleep plays a critical role in the recovery of muscle injury induced by exercise. In a study conducted on mice, sleep deprivation reduced the recovery of muscle injury induced by high-intensity exercise.
- Sleep deprivation can delay muscle recovery, increase the risk of injury, and reduce muscle growth. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are not able to repair and regenerate as effectively.
- Total sleep deprivation or restriction is known to alter not only blood hormones but also cytokines that might be related to skeletal muscle recovery. This study aimed to evaluate whether total sleep deprivation after eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage (EEIMD) modifies the profiles of blood hormones and cytokines.
- Not getting enough sleep will make your body more catabolic and will also delay muscle growth, especially if you’re using a high-intensity training style such as lifting heavy weights.
How much sleep do you need for quality muscle recovery?
Getting enough sleep is crucial for muscle recovery, and the amount of sleep required for quality muscle recovery can vary depending on the individual’s lifestyle and training regimen. Here are some key findings from the search results:
- Shooting for 7-9 hours of sleep each night is a great goal to have, but your personal sleep needs may be different based on your lifestyle or chronotype. Some might need more or less. For example, if you’re training multiple times a day and working long hours outside of the gym, then you may require more rest.
- Sleeping for 7-9 hours per night is crucial, especially if you are looking to change body composition, increase muscle mass, and be ready for your personal training session the next day.
- Good sleep quality is associated with greater muscle strength, while short sleep duration may be a risk factor for decreased muscle strength in university students.
- Minimal sleep (six hours or less) for four days can negatively impact muscle recovery.
- Lack of sleep can result in decreased muscle recovery and slow down the healing process. Sleep deprivation can delay muscle recovery, increase the risk of injury, and reduce muscle growth.
How to get more deep sleep…where the recovery happens
Generally speaking, anything you can do to improve your sleep health will also help you get more deep sleep. Here’s a good place to start:
- Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, the guideline for healthy adults. The most important thing you can do to increase your amount of deep sleep is to allow yourself adequate total sleep time.
- Set a consistent sleep schedule, which means going to bed and waking up at similar times each day. Your body runs more efficiently when it’s on a predictable schedule, and this is particularly true with sleep.
- Stay hydrated during the day. Most of us think about hydration in the context of exercise or diet, but research is now exploring the connection between hydration and sleep. Dehydration may create barriers to sleep, and sleep deprivation may also contribute to dehydration — so drink up for good health … and good sleep!
Sleeping for muscle recovery
In conclusion, lack of sleep can have a significant impact on muscle recovery. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery, and sleep deprivation can impair muscular endurance and strength, delay muscle recovery, increase the risk of injury, and reduce muscle growth. To ensure optimal muscle recovery, it is recommended to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night.