Sleep: Making it Work Better for Muscle Growth

15 Oct

bodybuilding sleepSome daily lifestyle choices can deplete both energy and growth: lack of proper nutrition or a tendency to overtrain are two of the obvious ones that athletes usually remain aware of. But neglecting to get adequate rest and sleep each day is the less apparent but also equally disruptive factor acting against muscular development.

What Affects Your Sleep Patterns

Sleep and rest requirements differ from one body to the next but there are some generally consistent needs – especially for anyone exerting strength demands on their muscles in high intensity strength training sessions. Some bodybuilders require the full average amount of sleep of eight hours a day, some as much as 10 hours per day to fully recover from strenuous workouts. On the other hand, some bodybuilders who are peaking for an upcoming competition might tend to get less sleep than average due to precompetitive tension. If so, unwind with an activity that diverts you from your stressors: read, do any relaxing hobby, meditate.

During the rest of the year, some basic weekly rules for sleep and rest that will work for most athletes:

  • Sleep for 8-9 hours a night;
  • Fit in one short nap of up to a half hour in the afternoons;
  • Include brief rest breaks throughout the day of just five minutes every 2-3 hours; schedule those with your meals.

The need for sleep and rest varies from one individual to the next and the variables for that individual’s physical state; these will consist of length and intensity of training sessions, stress levels, traveling long distances across time zones, diet, and possible other factors that will all play to some degree into the requirement for sleep or extra amounts of sleep than usual. “I’ve had to travel huge distances and time zones both as a U.S. marine and as a competitive athlete, so I’m extremely conscious of how my body responds and grows better when it has optimum amounts of sleep and short rest periods during the day,” points out Musclemania Superbody and Natural Olympia overall champion Philip Ricardo.

Sleep Stages – And Why You Need Them All

Sleep consists of different and alternating levels. One stage involves rapid eye movements (REM) and this is also when heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tone will change. This stage may thus be the restful period for the inhibitory nerve cells of the brain. This is also the point at which dreams may occur, and if it is interrupted you may react with anxiety and irritation once fully awake. This REM sleep level lasts for only about 20 percent of your total sleep during the night. It is during the deeper or quieter periods that follow REM that your systems can fully gain recovery from fatigue. If you miss some sleep one night, the body will not try to seriously compensate for that sleep deprivation, but if a substantial amount of the loss is REM sleep, then you may require more REM levels on subsequent nights.

Moderate physical activity seems to assist with the ability to fall into deeper sleep without altering the time spent at the REM level. On the other hand, too much or too little exercise seems to result in sleep disturbance. If this escalates to the point of significant sleep loss, then the immune system seems to become suppressed, which in turn is why many athletes under stress from travel to competitive events might be more vulnerable to local germs or flus and colds from overexhaustion.

Always monitor your experience with sleep during periods of high stress and intense physical training, and consult with your health care provider on further remedies that can be effective during such times. Be in control of the quantity and quality of your sleep, and you can be that much better positioned physically and mentally to be in control of your muscular conditioning which relies on the repair and recuperation that comes with sleep.


One Response to “Sleep: Making it Work Better for Muscle Growth”

  1. masterkeyjt October 17, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    Interesting to come over to your blog to read a post about sleep, which has been something for which I have been becoming more aware of my need. Thanks for the reminder!

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