We all want to get more done in a day, and when time is a factor, sleep is usually the first activity that gets sacrificed. It's widely known that a lack of sleep can cause everything from memory loss and other cognitive issues to an increased risk for illness, but can it affect your gains?
To put this matter to bed, we need to know how muscle is made!
Let's Talk Gains:
Muscle hypertrophy, or gaining those gains, is a two-part process:
1. Stimulation: Think of stimulation as your gym time. While you're crushing goals and getting that extra rep in, you're actually tearing your muscle fibers. Sounds crazy, but it's true. We are in the gym, damaging our muscles...on purpose!
2. Recovery: Recovery is any time in between training sessions. The things you eat and the rest you get both play a role in how well your body can repair damaged muscle fibers.
Ok, now we know our muscles are damaged, and then they are repaired.
So, the question remains....
Does sleep actually play a role when talking about body composition?
Yes, it actually does!
Frequently we hear how vital shut-eye is because of the poor mentality sleep deprivation causes. Inadequate sleep negatively affects our cognition, energy levels, and willpower. Not exactly a recipe for success when you're trying to maintain a steady gym routine or turn down that extra cookie (or three).
And it's true. The amount of energy you have for your gym sessions and the food you're fueling your body with certainly have an impact on your progress. But let's say we can work past those. We'll assume our willpower is iron, and our energy is endless.
At the end of the day, the amount of sleep you get plays a direct role in your body composition because that's when most muscle repair occurs. One major process of muscle repair is the production and secretion of Human Growth Hormone or HGH. HGH helps repair and grow muscle tissue. Not only does this growth hormone increase muscle tissue, but it also helps regulate metabolism and re-energize muscles for the next day. When you are consistently sleep deprived, HGH secretion declines, and, unfortunately, so does muscle mass. Although one night here or there probably won't erase your efforts, as little as a week of sleep deprivation has been shown to begin a decline in muscle mass.
HGH isn't the only "night owl" hormone affecting gains. Prolactin is also affected by sleep, although not directly tied to muscle tissue. Prolactin is released during sleep and has anti-inflammatory properties helping to heal joints and prevent trigger points. Less inflamed, healthier joints lead to better training sessions with a lower probability of injury, both of which impact muscle growth. Last but certainly not least, sleep can affect Cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, rises without enough shut-eye; these increased levels can increase appetite and weight gain--specifically in the mid-section.
How do we know we're getting proper sleep?
The importance of a good night's sleep is not lost on any of us. But what does it mean to get a good night's sleep? Both quality and quantity play a big part!
Quantity: Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Although you may be able to function normally with fewer hours, the vast majority of people require an average of 8 hours for those essential, physiological recovery functions mentioned above--especially if your training intensity is high! Research suggests it's the total amount of time you sleep, so if you've had a restless night, try to grab a nap during the day.
Quality: The quality of your sleep is another critical factor. Different muscle repairing processes occur throughout the four stages of a single sleep cycle. Getting to each stage (and staying there for the appropriate amount of time) helps optimize recovery. Three distinctions of quality sleep: falling asleep within 10-20 minutes of laying down, only waking up once (or less) during the night, and being able to fall back asleep quickly.
Tips for (gain)Zzz:
Choose a bedtime that allows for about 8 hours of sleep every night-- and stick to that bedtime! Going to bed at the same time every night keeps growth hormone levels high while maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm.
Start a relaxing evening routine to help cue your body for bedtime. Put the screens away, and try a warm bath, calming music, or reading. Whatever it is, make sure it winds you down.
Try a natural sleep aid, like Her Nighttime Burn. Although the first line of defense is healthy bedtime habits, sometimes extra support is needed. Her Nighttime Burnhelps to promote relaxation and quality sleep. If you're ready to up your gainZzz, try adding Her Night Time Burn into your nighttime routine. Our blend promotes deeper REM sleep, supports healthy cortisol levels, and promotes fat loss during sleep.