Sleep plays an important role in human life, enabling energy savings, influencing psychological states and improving cognition and overall performance.
Eight to ten hours of sleep every night promotes protein synthesis and the release of growth hormones in general. These benefits can promote muscle growth and improve mobility. However, sometimes sleep is overlooked by many people in everyday life, and many enthusiastic gym-goers do not know that good sleep is crucial for muscle building and fitness.
We have collated the science of what happens to an athlete’s body in terms of muscle growth when he or she sleeps.
The body has several systems that regulate our sleep-wake cycle and our journey through the cycle of sleep stages. These systems work together to ensure that we get a deep, restful sleep and have the energy to get through the day. The main reason why sleep is so important for muscle growth is how we process glucose. This is a kind of sugar stored in our bodies that we use for energy. When we sleep, blood glucose stores itself in our muscles as ‘muscle glycogen’. We also store glucose in our blood and liver, but it prefers to be in the muscles for maximum energy release.
Additionally, while diet proteins support muscle repair and growth, your body also produces its own muscle building hormones during sleep, including the Human Growth Hormone (also known as HGH).
Michele Olson, a member of the Shape Brain Trust Ph.D., professor of sports science at Huntingdon College in Alabama says to build muscle you need some sleep. During sleep the pituitary gland releases growth hormone that in turn stimulates the body to produce an insulin-like growth factor, a hormone essential for muscle repair, says Olson. The body doubles when the protein is converted into amino acids and insulin, pushes carbohydrates into muscle cells to give them energy, and uses them to create new cells and repair broken down tissue, she says.
In men, 60-70% of the daily secretion of growth hormones occurs in early sleep before the deep sleep cycle begins. Eating before bed helps to reverse this process and increase protein synthesis.
As it turns out, sleep is also crucial for strength training and recovery and helps muscles to regenerate after strenuous workouts. Enough sleep allows the body to recharge and prepare for the challenges that each new day brings. Sleeping 8-10 hours a night is similar to fast sleeping for catabolic muscle growth.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Clearly sleep affects our muscle growth and loss. We know that sleep contributes to muscles getting bigger and stronger, but they also shrink when we don’t get enough sleep. Researchers from 2011 looked at sleep deprivation and how it affects muscles in terms of growth and recovery.
Further, according to research by Dr. Bert Jacobson (2008), poor sleep affects energy levels and can lead to mood swings. One study showed that one week of sleep deprivation in healthy young men resulted in reduced testosterone levels and an increased increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels remain elevated the next evening, even if you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
Better sleep not only helps us build muscle, but also improves our exercise performance and lowers our inflammation overall. Sleep is key to muscle growth and overall physical well-being, so it is important to understand what happens after bedtime. We know that sleep deprivation can cause you to gain weight and increase cortisol levels of your stress hormone which affects your overall health.
So to maximize muscle building, it is important to maintain a healthy active lifestyle in combination with enough sleep. In other words, sleep without exercise does not bring benefits. Sleep gives your body time to recover, save energy and repair and build muscles after exercise.