If you’re participating in any type of exercise or physical training, sleep is by far the most important aspect of recovery. You see, a lot of people think that muscle growth comes from working out or exercising, this is simply not true.

Physical exertion actually breaks down the muscle, causing small micro tears. Utilizing sleep and nutrition to build back up the muscles that you tore down are where you really see the gains and growth that you are looking for. When you sleep, growth hormone is produced and protein synthesis occurs. All of the training, dieting and supplementation will not compensate for insufficient rest.

Unfortunately, sleep is a rare commodity in today’s world, and statistics show that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep . Busy schedules can keep people from making sleep a priority. This mistake will bring your muscle growth to a halt. The most important part of our sleep is called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During REM sleep your body and mind are revitalized and dreams occur. Today I will talk in further detail about the importance of sleep for muscle growth and recovery.
What sleep is and the stages of sleep

I’m sure that many of you have realized the differences in sleeping lightly and sleeping deeply. This is because there are actually phases of sleep that you go through throughout the night, 5 phases to be exact. These phases cumulatively create cycles. These cycles typically last around 90 minutes each. Each cycle can be broken down into two kinds of sleep, REM sleep and non-REM sleep. A sleep cycle will begin with 4 phases of non-REM sleep followed by a REM sleep phase. Understanding how these phases of sleep affect your recovery and growth will help immensely for people who exercise. Stages 3, 4 and REM sleep are particularly important due to the fact that during these phases the body and brain are at complete rest and due to the slowing of brain activity.

Stages of sleep

Stage 1: This stage of sleep is the introductory stage. Your brain activity begins to slow and you feel drowsy. This is the stage where you are still somewhat alert and most easily disturbed or awoken.

Stage 2: During this stage your brain activity slows down even further and you gain an increase in muscle relaxation. Your heartbeat slows and your body temperature decreases as well.

Stages 3 & 4: These are the beginning stages of deep sleep. Your brain activity reduces even further, your metabolic function slows down, and you go into complete muscle paralysis and lose environmental awareness. These are the deepest of all sleep states and the most difficult stage to be awoken from. This is also when your body repairs your muscles and stimulates growth and development.

REM sleep: Rapid Eye Movement Sleep – or stage 5, is defined by the rapid back and forth movement of your eyes. This stage of sleep is also characterized by vivid dreams. Your body also goes into a temporary paralysis in order to keep you from acting out your dreams. The most important aspect of REM sleep is that it has been shown to directly affects your learning ability. Studies have shown that when people are deprived of REM sleep they often don’t remember what they were taught prior to going to sleep. You typically enter REM sleep about 90 minutes after initially falling asleep (stage 1).

Importance of sleep

Ok, so now that we have a brief overview of what sleep is and what the different stages of sleep are, I’ll go over some of the more important aspects of sleep and how it affects muscle growth in further detail.

The main benefit that most weightlifters are concerned with is muscle retention. Getting a full night’s sleep and completing all of your sleep cycles are one of the best ways to gain your recovery and aid with muscle growth.

During sleep, energy consumption is lowered. This is great for a number of reasons. When your body goes through lowered energy consumption, this gives your body and muscles enough energy to recover.

The lowered energy consumption is also great due to the fact that when you’re sleeping you’re not eating (obviously). This helps us to avoid catabolism. Although some would argue that because you’re not eating, your body will automatically go into catabolism for lack of energy consumption throughout the night in order to complete your needs under these conditions. A good late night snack should help alleviate some of the symptoms. I recommend using a Casein protein to aid with this.

Casein is a slow digesting protein, which means you will get a slow and steady release throughout the night and your body won’t take away from your reserves. Typically, the body takes away amino acids from the muscles and puts them in the gut to avoid “starvation”. This slow release of amino acids will negate the body taking away amino acids from the muscles and therefore, aid with muscle growth and recovery.

Two of the most important factors of sleep are growth hormone production and increased protein synthesis. Human growth hormone, or HGH, is produced and secreted in the brain by the pituitary gland. Once HGH is released, it stimulates the liver to make insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).

This hormone is responsible for the growth and repair of bones and body tissues such as muscles, skin, and organs. Typically, in men, 60%-70% of daily HGH secretion occurs during early sleep. If you are having poor quality sleep, this can have a negative impact on your HGH production. Protein synthesis is the process of amino acids bonding together to create proteins that your body needs for restorative properties.

In other words, they will help repair damaged muscle tissue from you killing it in the gym. During sleep protein synthesis is slowed down in muscles that are less active and is concentrated on muscles that have performed the highest amount or have experienced the highest amount of tension. So in other words, your body will adapt and fixate more on the muscles that you worked on that day, in order for better recovery.

So now that we know the body can rejuvenate itself it shows us that we can expect muscle growth and fat loss from a good night’s sleep.

Immune system

When you workout, especially if you workout intensely, you put yourself at risk with your immune system. Exercise will lower your immune system initially. As explained previously, you actually break down your body when you exercise. This goes for muscles and your immune system alike.

When you sleep your body produces proteins called cytokines. Cytokines need to increase in production when you have an infection or when you put your body under stress (exercise). Also, have you ever tried working out with the flu or a cold? It’s not a great experience and can dampen your performance.

On top of all the benefits I’ve listed above, sleep can actually aid with increased testosterone production. During this study, ten young men from the University of Chicago were given a basic screening. The men were an average age of 24, and were in good shape and health. During the study they spent three nights in the lab sleeping for 10 hours, then 8 nights sleeping less than 5 hours. The effects from sleep loss were obvious after only one week of shortened sleep. Five hours of sleep decreased their testosterone level by 10%-15%. So as you can see, sleep is very important for a myriad of health benefits for men.

Products that aid with sleep

I know that there are people out there who have trouble falling asleep. Well don’t worry, there are many products to aid with sleep and make sure you get the most out of your sleep. As stated before, Casein protein can reduce the catabolic effects of sleep by giving you a slow release of amino acids throughout the night. There are also sleep aids such as Noxitropin, which aid with sleep and HGH production. Another great product to try for sleep aid is called Amino PM by Muscle Elements. It’s very unique due to the fact that it is the only amino acid nighttime product. It has GABA and tryptophan to aid with sleep and releasing growth hormone. It also contains amino acids that will help with boosting your immune system. It contains many benefits, but if you visit the page, there is a video that will go into greater detail.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think it’s safe to say that sleep is vital to muscle growth and to the well-being of the every-day man. From HGH and testosterone production, to increased protein synthesis and boosting your immune system, sleep can work wonders. Also, if you have trouble sleeping and want some help, there are plenty of products on the market to make sure you get a good, quality night’s sleep.

Recovery in subjects deprived of sleep for 24 hours has been measured at 72%, while recovery after a 48-hour period without sleep further deteriorated to a level of only 42%.2

Rosenthal, L. et al., Enforced 24-hour recovery following sleep deprivation, Sleep, 14(5), 448-453, 1991.

“Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?” Why Do We Sleep, Anyway? | Healthy Sleep. WGBH Educational Foundation, 8 Dec. 2007. Web. 23 June 2017.

Leproult, R., and E. Van. “Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men.” JAMA. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 June 2011. Web. 23 June 2017.

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