The importance of sleep has been well documented. It is the forgotten elixir that keeps us in our youth. It is an evolutionary compulsion that we all have to give into. While some people might seem to get by with only four or five hours of sleep, there is a consequence that they have to pay.
Experts suggest eight hours as the magical number that we need to hit every night. It might work for the average person, but not for the person building muscle. After all, a bodybuilder is not average. Their needs are increased, and sometimes, that includes their sleep.
The Science of Sleep
Sleep is as important as diet and exercise. You cannot honor these two and fail to honor your sleep requirements and expect to meet your lifting goals.
It is during sleep when our brains recharge. Memories are sorted out, dead or dying cells are replaced, microtears in muscle are repaired, protein is synthesized and important hormones are restocked. Your brain gets a chance to rest, and when it does, it rewards you with energy and focus the following day. Muscle tissue is nurtured during sleep. The damage accrued during training is repaired. This leads to muscle growth.
During sleep, energy is conserved. The meals taken throughout the day are given a chance to nourish your systems. The energy savings made are essential, as they provide a reserve that can be drawn from during exercise.
Testosterone and growth hormone, the two most important hormones in muscle building are secreted during sleep. They play a critical role in muscle maintenance and growth. Growth hormone is secreted shortly after sleep, underscoring the importance of getting enough sleep.
How Many Hours of Sleep is Needed for Muscle Building?
With the importance of sleep in bodybuilding having been established, it would be well to elaborate on how many hours are considered sufficient.
The eight hours previously mentioned do apply, but the accepted range is 7-9 hours. Assuming your day is filled with activity, these many hours of sleep have been shown to suffice. Even for the avid bodybuilder, 9 hours is just as much as you need to fully meet your needs.
It matters when you sleep too. You cannot sleep at 2 am and expect to harness the same benefits, regardless of whether you got the amount of hours needed. Your body operates on an internal clock, and retiring very late interferes with it, and upsets your internal systems.
Tips for Getting Better Quality Sleep
- The quality of your sleep matters too. Interrupted sleep does not quite lend the same benefits. There are ways you can ensure you get better sleep.
- Ensure you refrain from caffeine a few hours before bedtime. This allows enough time for the stimulating effects to wear off.
- Keep away from distractions. Your smartphone, TV, computer, bright lights and books all count as distractions. Opt for a warm shower instead, or writing in your personal journal.
- Try to keep your bedtimes consistent. This way, your body will know when it’s time to shut down and make it easier for you to do so.
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