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Muscle Recovery and Sleep: The Key To Better Results

April 24, 2019

Western society has seen a lot of amazing advances in recent years: Netflix, the Shake Weight, and dog sweaters… what a time to be alive! However, our society has also completely removed us from our natural circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms: physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. With the prevalence of long work hours, night shifts, late nights out and other stressors, humans no longer rely on the natural light cycles of the day to regulate hormones and behavior. Combine all of life's stress points with three to five taxing workouts a week and your body becomes a melting pot of stress! These stressors on the body can negatively affect your fitness progress and overall health. But let's focus on fitness for now.

Sleep and Fitness

Ever hear the expression, "I'll sleep when I'm dead"? Well it 's totally stupid; your body needs adequate sleep. Being well rested getting adequate hours of sleep helps your mind and body operate at peak levels. Good sleep is also essential to muscle recovery and reaching your fitness goals. Studies show that sleep deprivation negatively effects athletic performance, protein synthesis (muscle growth) and metabolism. So you'll find yourself low on energy, dragging your feet during workouts, and potentially feeling a tighter waist band (yikes!). How does lack of sleep negatively affect your body? By releasing cortisol, aka "the stress hormone". Cortisol is the hormone that is released when your body is stressed. It causes your system to flood with glucose in order to give large muscle an immediate source of energy, preparing your body for the fight or flight situation it believes you are in. When this happens, cortisol also inhibits your body's insulin production to prevent glucose from being stored. Lack of sleep and rest also increases cortisol levels in your body. This spike in cortisol affects your tolerance to glucose, can increase belly fat, and generally degrades muscle recovery and progress. This means that if you're exhausted from the week of work and workouts, you'll see better results by getting better sleep rather than waking up early to get that extra workout in.

Ways to improve quality of sleep

The good news is that even if work and life prevents you from getting adequate hours of sleep, there are things you can do to ensure the sleep you do get is high quality.

1. No work in the bedroom

Remove all work from the bedroom. If you need to do work at home, do it in another room. Your bedroom should be a place of relaxation and calmness. By doing work in the same place you sleep your subconscious associates the bedroom with stress.

2. No screens one hour before sleep

Studies show that exposure to light at night, especially blue light from electronics, prevents the release of melatonin, an important hormone associated with sleep. This means no more Netflix, Instagram and SnapChat in bed before sleeping!

3. Respect your circadian rhythms

In western society, our circadian rhythms are completely messed up do to artificial lighting and little influence of night and day with our sleep patterns. Try going to bed earlier and using translucent curtains in your bedroom to help wake up with the sun.

5. Keep it cool

Some studies suggest that cooler temperatures and that a decline in core body temperature can help initiate sleep faster and may help facilitate an easier entry into deeper stages of sleep. So crack a window or put the fan on and get ready for some awesome sleep!

6. Limit caffeine in the afternoons and evenings

We all love a good cup of joe. However studies show that caffeine ingested even six hours before sleep can have detrimental effects on sleep quality.

Conclusion

Between work and your social/marital life, your body is exposed to enough stress. Don't let overexercising and lack of sleep add to it. Get good sleep, focus on your overall health and you'll see better results in the gym.

References

  1. Halson SL. Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2014;44(Suppl 1):13-23. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0147-0.
  2. Aronson D. Corisol - It's Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diety Therapy. Today's Dietition. Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38.
  3. Leproult R, Copinschi G, Buxton O, Van Cauter E. Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep. 1997 Oct;20(10):865-70. PubMed PMID: 9415946.
  4. Blue Light Has A Darkside. Harvard Health Publications. May 1, 2012. Retrieved from .
  5. Murphy PJ, Campbell SS. Nighttime drop in body temperature: a physiological trigger for sleep onset? Sleep. 1997 Jul;20(7):505-11. PubMed PMID: 9322266.
  6. Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Nov 15;9(11):1195-200. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3170. PubMed PMID: 24235903; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3805807.



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