Your mission: to add bulk, or form some well-defined curves. The prescription: get some sleep!
Crazy as it sounds, that’s the advice you’ll get from bodybuilders, trainers, professional coaches, and fitness experts in general. The fact is your body can only heal, repair, and grow during deep sleep.
You can be doing the right things—perfectly portioning out your food, doing hardcore lifting that pushes you to the edge—but all that effort will be negated without enough recovery.
You can’t cheat on sleep. We know sleep is essential to life, just like eating and breathing. But there are many theories as to exactly why we sleep, with no one clear answer.
One is that sleep “restores” what our bodies lose while we’re awake. And recent findings actually support this theory, showing that many of the major restorative functions in the body, like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and the release of growth hormones, occur mostly, or as noted above, only during sleep.
Warning signs that you’re sleep-deprived. Have a sneaking suspicion you might not be getting the sleep you need? You’re not alone. An estimated 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. don’t get adequate sleep every night. Here are a few classic signs:
- Hitting the snooze button consistently on your alarm clock
- Yawning uncontrollably and at inappropriate times (e.g., workplace meetings, parent-teacher conferences)
- Feeling sluggish in the afternoon
- Getting drowsy while driving
- Having heavy eyelids and watery eyes
- Experiencing memory lapses
- Experiencing irritability and low energy
- Feeling excessive hungriness or a complete lack of appetite
Tips for catching quality z’s. Now that you know how important sleep is, don’t let it get away from you. Here are some handy tips to make the most of your rest time.
- From 4 to 6 hours before bedtime, avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night. And wake up at the same time every morning. If you’re getting enough sleep, you’ll wake up automatically without an alarm clock.
- Get regular exercise. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help you fall asleep faster and make your sleep more restful.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine that eases the transition between being awake and sleeping.
- Sleep primarily at night. Short naps are great for recharging and catching up on missed sleep, but too many naps, and naps that are too long, can interfere with your regular schedule.
Make the most of your workouts. Be honest with yourself. If you’re doing the work and the healthy eating plan and you’re still not seeing great results, it could be lack of sleep that’s holding back your progress. Remember, your body is an incredible machine. Give it a chance to recover and build for the jump-start you’ve been looking for.
Sleep and muscle recovery: Endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Dattilo, M,. H.K. Antunes, A. Medeiros, M. Mônico Neto, H.S. Souza, S. Tufik, and M.T. de Mello, Centro de Estudos em Psicobiologia e Exercício (CEPE), São Paulo, Brazil, April 2011.
Healthy Sleep: Understanding the third of our lives we so often take for granted, Web site, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, © 2008.