The health and fitness industry are continually advertising the latest supplement, diet ideas and training methods to help people build muscle and get stronger quickly. All of which are great at helping build muscle but none if any training routine or programme considers the importance of sleep.
Sleep affects how we feel, look and perform. Poor and ineffective sleep can have a massive impact on how we function and our quality of life. While we are sleeping our bodies are highly active where proteins are produced and synthesised. During sleep we also release human growth hormones, this plays a vital role in the development and growth of skeletal and muscular growth. Without sleep, the hours we spend at the gym are extremely less effective because our bodies do not have a chance to build and repair. It is recommended we sleep for 8-10 hours per night to allow our bodies to restore and repair organs, bones, tissues and also replenish immune cells.Stages of sleep
While we are sleeping we go through both REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. The stages of sleep are separated into 4 sections.
- Stage one – is considered the stage between being awake and falling asleep.
- Stage 2 – is considered the onset of sleep where you become disengaged with your surroundings and breathing and heart rate are slow but regular. Stage 2 sleep is considered part of NREM sleep and accounts for up to 45-60% of sleep time.
- Stage 3 and 4 – are considered the deepest and most restorative phase of sleep where our muscles relax, tissue repair can occur, hormones are released and energy is restored. Stage 3-4 account for up to 40% of sleep time.
- REM sleep – first occurs about 90 minutes after falling completely asleep and returns approx every 90 minutes. During REM sleep we are likely to dream to support daytime activities or experiences. Our muscles are relaxed and our brain is given time to restore. REM sleep accounts for up to 20-25% of sleep time and is our most active stage of sleep.
Benefits of a healthy sleep patternThe benefits of maintaining a healthy sleep pattern are vast! Not only does your body have a chance to repair and restore muscular tissues but it also gives time for your brain to restore and rest. The benefits of healthy sleep includes;
- Increased repair of muscles and other soft tissues
- Increased alertness
- Increased motivation
- Increased happiness
- Increased energy
- Increased energy conservation
- Increased recovery from injuries
In addition to helping our muscles and soft tissues, sleep helps our brains! Research has found that good sleep hygiene helps you feel motivated, alert and happy!
Ways to achieve a healthy sleep pattern
There are a number of ways to help improve your sleeping pattern and everyone has their preference. Some of the tips you can apply to help encourage healthy sleep include;
- Avoid daytime naps: this can decrease your ability to fall asleep in the evening.
- Avoid caffeine intake after 4 pm
- Keep caffeine intake below 6 cups a day: this includes coffee’s, coke, some green teas.
- Sleeping environment: keep your bedroom as an area for sleeping, avoid eating, watching TV, completing work in the bedroom environment.
- Avoid using electronics for 1 hours before bed: it has been found that TVs, phones and computer screens project blue light that the brain associates with daytime so using electronics before bed can stimulate the brain to wake up.
- Enforce a 1-hour wind-down routine: use the hour before bed to take a warm bath or read a book to wind down.