With all the effort into your workout and diet, did you realize that failing to add the proper amount of rest and recovery into your efforts can undermine and work against you?
Sleep is an important part of your body’s repair and maintenance efforts. For athletes, sleep is the time where the concentration of growth hormone in the body is at its highest. These hormones are the building blocks to your muscle recovery and growth.
How important is that good night’s sleep to your recovery?
A 2018 study performed by Uppsala University in Sweden took fat and muscle samples from 15 healthy young men on two separate mornings – one after a good night’s sleep and the other after they lay awake all night. After the sleepless night, the participants’ muscles showed signs of protein breakdown. Their fat tissue, in contrast, had elevated levels of proteins and metabolites that are involved in promoting fat storage.
Limited and insufficient sleep can have even more effects on your body than muscle health. If you are one who puts off getting adequate rest, here are other things you might encounter:
- Memory issues
- Impaired concentration
- Mood changes
- Weakened immune system
- Increased blood pressure
- Risk of diabetes
- Weight gain
- Risk of heart disease
- Poor balance
- Reduced sex drive
Now before you think that another shot of an energy drink solves all this…
Stimulants (caffeine, energy drinks, etc) aren’t enough to override your body’s need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. Which, you guessed it… may make you end up in a cycle of insufficient sleep.
So what are the signs this may be an issue? One sleepless night, or one tired day is something we all experience. It is not the one time or rare occurrence that we are talking about. What you should watch out for are signs of:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Constant fatigue
- Concentration issues
And remember what you can tolerate as part of your routine, and how much sleep you need, is not a constant throughout your life. Just because you could push your limits in your 20’s does not mean those are your same limits later in life. As your body changes over time, so does your metabolism and other physiological aspects that will impact how much sleep you require to stay healthy, and see the benefits or your training efforts.
If you are in need of a few basic tips to manage your rest cycles, try these:
- Stick to a regular time for bed, it will keep your body on a schedule
- Do not over-sleep on the weekends, or off days, as this too will impact your body’s ability to manage its rests cycles
- Be careful with naps; they are fine, but too many, too long, or at the wrong time, and you can mess up your body’s sleep cycle
- During the day, get as much exposure to light as possible; this not only helps the body develop vitamin D, but also helps tell it to be awake
- At night, limit the amount of exposure to bright lights – like television, and computer screens – this will help ensure your body knows it is time to shut down
- When it is time to sleep, keep the room dark
- Try to avoid physical activities such as exercise within three hours of your expected bed time – exercise activates your metabolism, which in turn makes it hard to sleep
- If you do want to add an activity to help you rest, there are simple yoga techniques that you may find beneficial,
- And, limit caffeine and alcohol at night; one clearly does not work well with trying to rest, and while the other might make you relax, it can interfere with your sleep cycle once you are asleep
If you are looking for more advise and understanding on the importance of sleep and recovery, we recommend you try these resources by Sleep Help:
As we always end our sections with Train Hard, in this case…
– Rest Hard!