Why Sleep Is Crucial for Muscle Recovery
Without good sleep and recovery, you are hurting your progress in the gym and not meeting your maximum potential. Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and also maintaining your health outside of the gym.
Sleep is the key to building lean muscle, ensuring longevity through intense periods of training, and maintaining healthy cognitive function in other aspects of life. Research is constantly being done to help people improve the quality of sleep, but are you focusing on the factors that relate to you?
The benefits of improving sleep and staying on a consistent schedule outnumber the social costs. If you are an athlete looking to progress in the gym or even just someone looking for tips to get better sleep quality, stick around because we are going to give you actionable tips that Garage Strength athletes use.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Why is Sleep Important for Muscle Recovery?
Sleep is the basis of natural recovery for all people, especially in the case of athletes. If you are not sleeping well or maybe enough, that means your muscles are not getting the chance to heal which will affect your hypertrophy.
Let’s take a step forward and talk about some tangible research, specifically for athletes. Researchers, Craven and McCartney, found that sleep deprivation can have a big negative impact on physical performance. Through the study of various strength qualities, they saw a substantial decrease in anaerobic power from athletes that were sleep deprived.
In the same study, athletes that were sleep deprived also saw greatly reduced endurance and absolute strength over their period of training. From this study, and many others like it, we can see that lack of sleep has a snowball effect on muscle recovery.
The harder and more intensely you train, the better quality sleep you will need. If you are not getting enough sleep, you won’t perform as well in the gym which will double-down on hindering your progress. So what specific aspects of your life, other than working out, are affecting your sleep quality?
2. What Can Cause Bad Sleep?
Anything you do in your daily life will have an affect on the way you sleep and ultimately recover. Although, there are some key factors that may have longer lasting or immediate effects on sleep quality. Below are things that we see far too often when an athlete is having a hard time sleeping.
Your lifestyle is going to be the biggest thing that affects your sleep. Lifestyle is a very broad term, so it would be good to specify a certain aspect that plagues many people: travel.
For anyone that is a serious athlete competing on the national level or maybe anyone that likes to visit different places, travel can have a huge impact on sleep. When you travel and move around often, you’re likely to lose sleep because of a busy schedule. It could also be from changes in time zones, like a football team traveling across the country that has to account for consistent training times.
Whether you’re traveling or staying close to home, what you put into your body is going to affect the way you sleep. Yes, you may have limitations in terms of options depending on your situation, but there are a lot of things you can eliminate to improve sleep as well.
One of the things to eliminate is alcohol. Yes, alcohol. It’s obvious that going out every weekend for a three day bender is going to have you hungover and feeling less than ideal. But even with social drinking, alcohol is going to cause inflammation in your body that will negatively affect the way you sleep and perform.
Another part of your diet that can negatively affect sleep is your caffeine intake. We all know caffeine is a stimulant and is meant to keep you awake. This means that taking too much caffeine or taking it too close to bedtime is going to make it harder to fall asleep.
Having a hard time falling asleep and even staying asleep can also be caused by stress. There are different forms of stress, one of them being physical stress. Physical stress is going to be any pain, soreness, or fatigue that you experience when trying to fall asleep.
Then there is mental stress. This could be caused by work, anxiety, depression, or personal relationships. Mental stress can even be from managing your lifestyle and future. Stress is difficult to handle because it presents differently for everyone, but in the next section we cover ways to manage it better.
The final factor that has become exponentially common over the past 30 years is screen time. Not just from computers and TVs, but especially cell phones. Too much blue light and screen time can irritate your eyes, but also it’s very easy to lose track of time. The same goes with video games and TV because it’s always “just one more episode” or “just one more game”.
3. How to Improve Your Quality Of Sleep
Improving your quality of sleep, starts with fresh air, absorbing vitamin D, and getting outside for AT LEAST 10-15 minutes to be in the sun. This could literally consist of walking down the street or sitting in your yard.
The reason you want to prioritize sunlight is because of the benefits that sunlight has on maintaining your circadian rhythm. Especially if you’re an avid traveler or changing time zones for competitions, that time outside is going to help you shift and adjust your circadian rhythm. Adjusting and tracking your circadian rhythm can be tracked with the help of tools, like ones from TimeShifter with Steven Lockley.
Early Morning Cognition
Challenge yourself mentally when you first wake up. As part of your morning routine, do some kind of cognitive training drill. It could be as simple as spending a few minutes learning a language each morning or a crossword puzzle with your bowl of cereal.
This will help kickstart your brain to wake up and function more efficiently throughout the day. To keep your brain functioning without crashing, try to wait an hour and a half to two hours before consuming caffeine after you wake up.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and meditation is going to be one of those tips to reduce stress and improve deep relaxation. It doesn’t always have to be a physical task like yoga. You can do silent meditation, prayer, or just taking time out of your day to reflect and calm the mind before sleeping.
Reduce Screen Time Before Sleeping
As we talked about earlier in the article, screen time has negative and irritable effects on sleep. To help get to sleep faster and hold a deeper sleep longer, don’t look at your phone or any screen extensively 60 minutes before sleeping.
Lower Room Temperature at Night
That final tip is going to be sleeping in a cooler room. Keep your room between 60 and 65 degrees fahrenheit when you’re trying to fall asleep. When your body temperature is too high, falling asleep will become difficult and uncomfortable. Creating a sool and dark setting to sleep in is going to be key for getting asleep faster and staying asleep.
4. Final Thoughts On Sleep
Sleep is your best friend when it comes to muscle recovery. That and your diet. Sleep often gets overlooked because of a busy schedule or the want to do other things with those hours of the day. If you are an athlete and want to be a champion, you need to prioritize sleep, especially when you’re in-season or coming up on a championship when training is most intense. Sleep like a beast, perform like a beast. Dane out.
Yo, It's Dane
Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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