Sleep is a vital part of our daily lives. The importance of getting enough sleep each night isn’t a new concept. Most of us have probably experienced the side effects of a bad night’s sleep enough times to know that we generally feel healthier when we are getting enough sleep on a regular basis. But, did you know that a good night's sleep plays an essential role in muscle and exercise recovery?
We’re diving into why quality sleep is important for muscle growth and health as well as how you can support your muscle recovery better.
How much sleep do I need?
Many of us would agree that we could use a little more sleep, but how much do you need really?
Every individual is different, which means each of us needs a different amount of sleep. However, most experts suggest that healthy adults get around 7-9 hours of sleep every night. This is, of course, just a general guideline which means that the right sleep duration for you may depend on your individual needs.
For example, if you usually get around 7 hours of sleep each night yet find that you are still consistently tired and unproductive during the day, it may be that you require more sleep.
Our individual sleep needs can also depend on other factors. Individuals who lead an active lifestyle, exercise frequently or have physically demanding jobs may also need more sleep than those who are more sedentary.
What happens to the body when we sleep?
We need adequate sleep so that various crucial functions in are body can be carried out properly. It is important for our immune and cardiovascular systems as well as for regulating metabolism.
When we sleep our bodies experience a variety of changes. Our breathing and heart rate slow down, our brain activity shifts between different activity levels as we move through different sleep stages, and our hormone levels fluctuate. Meanwhile, the muscles relax and our energy usage decreases.
Most importantly, sleeping is a restorative process during which our body repairs cells and conserves energy,
Why sleep is key for muscle recovery
Although it sounds counterintuitive, in order to build muscle we actually need to cause our muscle fibers to tear (only on a microscopic level, we’re not talking serious injury). This occurs by doing a hard workout such as weight training.
When the muscle is injured in this minor way, the cells try to repair the damage. To do this, they join together which, in turn, increases the muscle fiber, making the muscle bigger and stronger. This series of muscle-bulking events is triggered by the release of growth hormone which jumpstarts our metabolism and turns amino acids into protein to aid muscle building.
This regenerative process mostly happens during sleep, making sleep essential for muscle building and recovery. That's why sleep and muscle recovery go hand in hand.
Sleep deprivation and muscle recovery
When we don’t get enough restorative sleep, the regenerative process our body needs to build muscle cannot happen properly.
According to studies, around 95% of growth hormone secretion (also known as Human Growth Hormone, or HGH) occurs during slow-wave sleep, or non-REM sleep (REM = rapid eye movement). This is the hormone that stimulates tissue growth which helps the muscle tissue to repair itself. Therefore, if we aren’t able to reach that stage of deep sleep, our body is unable to repair the muscle damage caused by exercise.
If we don’t catch enough shut-eye our muscles are deprived of its crucial healing process. In fact, being sleep-deprived can also cause the muscles to become inflamed and break down their own protein.
Depriving the muscles of the opportunity to repair themselves and recover can result in the microtears becoming aggravated which, in turn, can lead to overuse injuries and a loss of muscle mass.
4 ways to support better muscle recovery
Food For Muscle Repair
Eating the right foods can help your muscles recover. Our muscles need protein to help repair the microtears. Consuming protein before and after exercise can help support recovery.
Carbohydrates are also an important factor. They are the main source of energy for our muscles when we exercise so it’s important to replenish these before and after exercise. Having a post-workout snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein can supply your muscles with the nutrients they need to repair themselves.
Generally, eating a healthy and balanced diet puts you in the best position to promote muscle recovery.
Being dehydrated can make it harder for your muscles to repair themselves. Try to drink around two liters of water a day. If you’re especially active, live in a warm climate, or sweat a lot you may need to drink more.
Electrolytes can also help keep you hydrated. When we sweat, we lose valuable minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium, which we need for muscle contraction. Replenishing these electrolytes can help you recover and maintain hydration levels.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Dedicating time to warm up properly may help to keep your muscles from getting too sore and can minimize the risk of injury. This is especially true before doing challenging physical activities such as lifting heavy weights.
Likewise, it’s just as important to take the time to cool down after a workout to let the heart slow and the blood pressure recover. Stretching once you’ve cooled down can be helpful for increasing your range of motion and may prevent muscle tightness.
And last, but not least, sleep! By now, you already know about the importance of sleep when it comes to muscle recovery. Because sleep plays such a key role in our well-being, striving to get more sleep is a good start. But it's not simply sleep duration that we need to pay attention to. Sleep quality is just as important, this refers to restful sleep or how you slept rather than for how long.
You can support better sleep in multiple ways:
Avoiding screen time before bed
Improving your sleep hygiene by making your sleeping environment as comfortable as possible
Adopting a consistent sleep schedule
Avoid drinking too much caffeine and alcohol
If you’re looking for a way to support both your sleeping habits and healthy muscles at the same time, you may benefit from a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is an essential mineral that not only supports muscle performance and recovery but has also been shown to have a calming effect on the body which can promote optimal sleep and a better night’s rest.
In fact, its benefits don’t stop there. Magnesium helps promote so many different aspects of our health, it’s sometimes referred to as the “do-it-all” mineral. You can read more about the benefits of this multi-tasking essential mineral here.
Did you find this article helpful? Join our Tribe for more information on supplementation.