Without a doubt there is an important connection between our sleep quality and our physical fitness goals, and in many cases this is a lesser considered piece of the complex healthy living puzzle.
Diet, motivation, timing, supplements, exercise, rest, and gear are the most common fitness subjects that we consider when plotting our goals. After months of training, if expectations are not met and we aren’t reaching our goals, we’re most likely to blame one of these things.
Although the most common fitness struggles (focus, energy, endurance, plateauing) can sometimes be the culprit hindering our goals, be sure to consider other aspects of your lifestyle that might be surprisingly halting your potential… Are we resting enough?
Did you know, Sleep plays a huge role in muscle recovery? Without adequate rest your body will fail to adapt to even the best training programs or nutritional plans. During your sleep cycles, growth hormones are produced and protein synthesis occurs. For active individuals this impacts your energy consumption, mental focus/alertness and physical readiness for tomorrow’s workout.
Physical Benefits of Sleep:
- The repairing of muscle and other tissues, and the replacement of aging/dead cells.
- Protein synthesis occurring under conditions of sleep but it occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, not the muscles.
- Human growth hormone is created and released by the body during early sleep stages which is typically when the deepest sleep cycles exist.
- During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) the body will restore organs, bones, and tissue. Replenish immune cells and circulate human growth hormone. Sleep has a profound effect on overall muscle growth and physical well being.
- The body has less of a need for energy consumption with sufficient rest. If we didn’t need sleep we would need double the meals in our day.
- During sleep the brain is recharges, increasing your alertness during your waking hours.
Sleep Stages & the Sleep/Wake Cycles:
The brain cycles through several stages during sleep, lasting around 90 to 100 minutes each. The two different types of sleep are classified as REM and non-REM sleep. A sleep cycle begins with 4 stages of non-REM sleep before they reverse and REM concludes your rest. Most people will experience approximately five of these cycles each night of rest. Knowing about sleeps stages are important for athletic individuals as the stages typically follow a set pattern and to adequately recover, ones brain must forgo each of these stages.
Stage 1: The transition stage between sleep-fulness and wakefulness, stage one non-REM sleep is the shortest period of sleep in the sleep/wake cycle.
Stage 2: The baseline of sleep, non-REM sleep stage two accounts for the majority of your sleep time.
Stages 3 & 4: Non-REM sleep stages three and four are the deepest stages of sleep and the most restorative for both the brain and body.
REM Sleep: The most active stage of sleep. Breathing, heart rate and brain activity quicken during this stage.
Getting Adequate Rest:
Often it is hard to get a great night of sleep. Even when we do fall asleep the quality of the sleep may not always feel like enough. Here are a few ways to better that good night sleep increase the benefits associated.
- Limit Oversleeping: Constant oversleeping may interrupt your body clock, pushing you into a different cycle. This will make trying to fall asleep increasingly harder for you.
- Take A Warm Bath: A warm bath will soothe and relax the muscles you have been training while putting you in a restful mindset for bed. The scent of Lavender will ease anxiety and insomnia, increasing the onset of sleep.
- Exercise: Exercising during the day will tire one out and help sleep to come faster. Intense training sessions too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect, leaving you restless past your bedtime
- Limit Caffeine and Booze: Caffeine causes a hyperactive mind. Alcohol can put you out faster but will disrupt later stages of your sleep, leaving you awake before fully rested. Here is a list of beverages to drink (or not) before bed.
- Avoid Sleeping Aids: These may work temporarily or in a crunch but long term patterns or dependencies can be harmful to your precious rest.
- Optimal Sleeping Environment: Keep your room reasonably cool (60-67 degrees). Invest in a quality sleep essentials. Consider mattresses with foam layering and zoned support for better spinal alignment, support, and temperature regulation.
- Establish a Bedtime Routine: Make your evenings relaxing, create comfortable and familiar routines (tea, bath, yoga, reading) that set you up for great rest.
- Limit the Distractions in your Bedroom: Avoid mental stimulations too close to bedtime. Your wandering mind is the best entertainment for your pre-bedtime needs. Harsh lights or distraction can leave your brain awake while your body is exhausted.