You Had a Good Workout, Now Help Your Muscles Recover
Building muscle is important for fitness. But if you’re not getting enough sleep, you may struggle to build muscle. Your body builds muscle during deep sleep, and if you’re sleep-deprived, your muscles fail to recover and develop.
More than a third of American adults are regularly sleep-deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Adults ages 18 to 60 should sleep at least seven hours each night, but many do not. Here’s what you need to know about sleep and muscle recovery.
Impact of Sleep on Muscle Recovery and What You Can Do About it
What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Well
Although sleep deprivation is common, it’s not innocuous. If you regularly suffer from not getting enough sleep, you’re at serious risk of developing health problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of developing conditions including:
High blood pressure
Frequent mental distress
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for adults. For bodybuilders, there are greater consequences. Sleep deprivation can cause serious issues for bodybuilders, including:
Increase in overuse injuries
A decrease in muscle mass
Reduction in testosterone
How Sleep Builds Muscles
Sleep is when your body gets a chance to recover and rebuild at its highest levels. While you can take a rest day, deep sleep is when your body truly regenerates and builds muscle.
Experts say good sleep often makes the difference for people who aren’t seeing good progress, despite working out and following a good nutrition plan.
The body repairs itself (regenerating and building muscle) during deep sleep. When you work out, you’re breaking down tissue that will repair and grow stronger as you sleep. When you’re in a deep sleep, the body produces growth hormone and uses protein consumed during the day to repair your muscle tissue and make you stronger.
Getting enough sleep means your motivation and emotional state is more positive throughout the day.
This can translate into better workout habits and greater motivation, because you have more energy to get to work and give it your all, rather than starting out tired and struggling to keep up.
Sleep Tips for Health and Fitness
- Don’t sacrifice sleep for fitness
It takes time to exercise, but don’t cut into your sleep schedule to make time for a workout.
If you’re planning to wake up early and squeeze in a workout, go to bed early so you can still get enough sleep.
Don’t work out late at night just before bed, as doing so can leave you feeling too alert to drift off to sleep easily. It’s best to avoid working out three to four hours before bed.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
A regular bedtime schedule can help you get to sleep easier by creating a predictable routine. Go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning and your body will start to predict the schedule and prepare to wind down around bedtime.
- Follow a bedtime routine
The consistency of a bedtime routine can be helpful as well, signaling to your brain and body that you are about ready to fall asleep. Go through the same activities each night before bed, such as going through a relaxing yoga routine, brushing your teeth, and reading a book before you get in bed.
- Focus on muscle building exercises
Muscle-building exercises can help you sleep better. Physical activity during the day can lead to better sleep at night.
- Create a healthy sleep environment
A healthy sleep environment is a key to getting good quality sleep. Your bedroom should be a calming environment, with little-to-no distractions that can keep you up at night. Make sure your bedding is comfortable, the temperature is cool, and you’re keeping it dark and quiet.
- Regulate late-night food
Certain foods can be a problem for sleep because your body is too busy digesting a heavy meal or you’re wired from caffeine. Avoid food and drink with caffeine, heavy fats, or high sugars before bed, and don’t eat a heavy meal just before you go to sleep. A high-protein snack can support healthy sleep and muscle growth.
- Practice good sleep hygiene
Good sleep habits can support healthy sleep. Avoid screen time before bed as the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Consider yoga, meditation, and other relaxing activities before bed to improve your sleep hygiene.
Muscle building happens while you sleep. If you’re not getting enough rest, your health and fitness will suffer.
Adults should aim to sleep at least seven hours per night—and athletes may need more sleep than that.
Practice good sleep hygiene, maintain sleep routines and avoid pitfalls—such as screen time—that can interfere with healthy sleep. Doing so can improve the quality of your sleep and help you make the most of deep sleep and its restorative, muscle-building abilities.