When does muscle growth take place? It doesn’t happen in the gym that is for sure. No, that is when muscle breakdown takes place if you are pushing yourself hard enough. Growth happens in the hours after the workout with a good chunk happening while your body sleeps and repairs itself.
With that in mind it makes sense that you would want to get the most out of that rest period to ensure the most growth. So how do you get better sleep or at least more productive sleep?
Sleep is the one time each day when your body gets to press the “reset” button. Estimates from various sleep surveys show that about half of the adults out there don’t get a restful night sleep regularly. Think about it. You stay up late to do work, watch TV, read, or whatever to squeeze a bit of personal time out of your day. More than likely you have to get up at a certain hour because of kids or work. That amount of time probably isn’t as much as your body wants.
Lack of sleep causes stress, attitude problems, and means your body isn’t getting that full recharge it needs. That also means it isn’t going to recover as fast as you want which directly relates to muscle growth. On top of that, growth hormone is released during the deep stages of sleep. So if you never get to that stage you are limiting your body’s ability to grow.
What You Need
There is no magic number for sleep; everyone is different. However there is a difference between what we need to thrive and what we can handle to survive. Plenty of people say they can get by on six hours a night but their body might thrive on eight.
Start by trying an experiment and blocking off a week to try sleeping more. Do two nights at nine hours, two at eight, and two at seven. Chart your energy level during the day along with mood and try and determine your optimum amount.
Next try and adjust your schedule so for sure you get that much sleep on any night you workout, if not every night of the week. If you have a hard time getting into a deep sleep even with enough sack time check out these tips:
- Avoid Late Workouts – Working out too close to bedtime can inhibit sleep because of elevated body temperature, increased heart rate, and elevated brain activity. Ideally you want at least three hours of downtime post workout before you sleep.
- Skip Alcohol – A cocktail with dinner is fine, but drinking anything that is still in your system before sleep is asking for trouble. To start with, alcohol dehydrates you. Secondly is can affect your natural sleep rhythms.
- Lights Out – Artificial light can play a big factor in sleep. Studies have shown that people who go right from watching TV, on the computer, or even on a smart phone have a harder time sleeping soundly. The artificial light from the screen to our eyes and then into our brain can affect your mood as you try and sleep. Instead wind down with anything else like reading right before bed.
- Take a Walk – If you can’t sleep and are restless then get up out of bed. Walk to the kitchen and drink a small amount of water, stretch, and then come back to bed. Fluff the pillow and reset yourself like you are just going to bed. It might seem like the wrong thing to do, but really you are just starting the process all over to remove the pressure of not sleeping.
- Sugar and Caffeine – This is a big one for a lot of people. Many people eat too much sugar and take in caffeine late in the evening. While it boosts metabolism and alertness, it also messes with your body making it harder to sleep.
“Rest to grow” should be a mantra. If you aren’t going to focus on this critical aspect of the process then in essence all that time in the gym and focus spent on diet and supplements is diminished. To get the maximum out of everything you put in, make sure you get a good night’s sleep!