The Infallible Connection Between Sleep and Muscle Growth

Bodybuilders will be the first to acknowledge that one of the ­­­­most important aspects of achieving gains is sleep. In fact, it takes precedence over supplementation, diet and working out. Without getting enough sleep, you can work out as often as you like and take the best supplements and stick to the best diet, you will not be satisfied with your progress.

It is whilst you’re sleeping that your growth hormone is released, and this triggers the all-important protein synthesis.

The Reason Why We Have to Sleep

Sleep is important for a number of crucial functions inside the body. Sleep assists in muscle repair and growth as well as being able to stay mentally alert.

During sleep you are fasting, and getting in between 8 and 10 hours every night becomes catabolic to muscle gains. But if you eat before you sleep, this will have a reversal effect by enhancing protein synthesis. Protein synthesis occurs in the gastrointestinal tract during sleep.

The muscles breakdown under these conditions to feed the stomach with vital amino acids, the body switches to starvation mode. Simply eating before going to bed is an important way of counterbalancing this. Some experts recommend nocturnal eating, meaning getting up in the middle of the night and munching!

According to research, it is during rapid eye movement (REM) that the body is able to replenish and restore tissue, organs, bones, circulation of growth hormone, and most importantly, testosterone. Sleep’s connection to muscle growth cannot be denied.

One of the ways the body conserves resources is by lowering energy consumption. Look at it this way, most of us would need to eat numerous meals a day if we didn’t sleep.

The priority for bodybuilders is gains. Conserving energy when not in the gym is vital. Eating regularly throughout the day helps achieve muscle growth, and sleep works by ensuring that food is utilized to help replace energy and build new muscle tissue.

Sleep also helps to rejuvenate the brain. An ATP producing neurotransmitter responsible for powering biochemical reactions within cells called “Adenosine” signals to the brain that it needs to rest. The rise and fall of adenosine suggests that the brain has switched to rest mode during sleep because the fluctuations correlate with actual brain activity. When you sleep, adenosine levels drop. Studies have revealed that blocking adenosine can heighten alertness, because it shows that the brain is in recharge mode. By the end of a busy day, adenosine levels increase suggesting the brain has started to fatigue.

Resting the brain has a direct bearing for bodybuilders, especially when considering that mental alertness is needed during the day, especially when in the gym. Motivation levels reach their peak when mental alertness is strong. According to studies, REM sleep is required in order for the brain to function and for you to remain alert.

The brain goes through cycles during sleep, and these cycles typically last up to 100 minutes at a time. There are two types of sleep:

  • REM sleep
  • Non-REM sleep

Most people go through four stages of non-REM sleep before hitting REM sleep. An average person will go through five of the cycles every night. It is important for bodybuilders to understand the various stages of sleep so they can set a pattern for themselves to help them recover.

The moment you start depriving yourself of REM sleep is when problems start to arise because it is during this period that both the body and brain are at their most comprehensive. Memory consolidation takes place during REM sleep. It is stage three and four when the body and brain are completely at ease and resting due to the lower levels of neurological activity.`

Different Sleep Stages

Stage 1: the transition stage between sleeping and waking up. This is non-REM sleep and is probably the shortest period of sleep

Stage 2: non-REM sleep phase makes all for around 60% of your average sleep

Stage 3 + 4: sometimes known as delta sleep, it is also non-REM sleep and accounts for around 40% of sleep time. These phases are considered to be the most restorative for the brain

REM Sleep: this is a most active stage of sleep, and accounts for up to 25% of an average night. Studies have shown that the heart rate, brain activity and breathing increase during this phase

Getting In Enough Sleep

It’s not always easy to get a good night sleep. Even after falling asleep, the quality may be lagging. There are a number of steps you can take to get a good night’s sleep and reap the rewards for doing so.

Avoid Oversleeping

If you oversleep, chances are you are affecting your body’s natural cycle. This will make the next time you fall asleep much harder.

Have a Bath

Having a nice warm bath is not only soothing but it is also an amazing relaxant.

Exercising

Taking part in exercise, especially aerobic activities during the day are enough to tire you out in the day, and this usually results in falling asleep much quicker when it comes to night-time.

Stay Away from Alcohol and Caffeine

Alcohol is a major sleep disruptor and caffeine can cause hyperactivity at night so cut these two out.

Don’t Keep a TV in the Bedroom!

Watching TV in the bedroom can increased alertness. This means that the brain may decide that its time is for watching your favorite program rather than sleeping.

Keep Your Evenings Relaxed

Evenings are supposed to be relaxing and not stressful, so try to keep your work at work. Don’t bring it home with you.

Keep a Sleep Conducive Environment

Keeping your room reasonably cool is always a good start. Humid conditions are normally major contributors to disruptive sleep.

Stay With From Pills

These are only a temporary solution, and before you know it you’ll become immune to them.

To Sum Up

Sleep is important for numerous reasons. In terms of bodybuilding, sleep is as important as your training sessions, your diet, and your supplementation. Remember, sleep is responsible for enhancing muscular recovery by triggering protein synthesis and releasing the GH. Try to get in as many hours of sleep as possible and the general rule of thumb is around eight hours a night is more than sufficient. Remember that if you neglect your sleep, your recovery will suffer and you will not grow.