For individuals looking to build muscle, sleep is no less than vital. It's when you're sound asleep that your body really goes to work at repairing and building your muscle tissue. This anabolic state, during which muscle-building hormones are released, happens primarily during the REM sleep period. In an 8-hour sleep period, an individual will cycle through the sleep periods five times. Therefore, getting enough of uninterrupted sleep every night is absolutely essential for ensuring that your muscles are able to adequately repair, recover and grow.
Not getting proper sleep essentially means that your muscles won't heal or build and the time and hard work that you put in at the gym was all a waste. Quality sleep is just as important for building muscle as your training regimen.
The Importance of Sleep
After your high-volume, hypertrophy weight training workouts, your muscle tissue is left broken down and damaged. This is ideal, as it's this tissue damage that stimulates the muscle-building process. However, it's when you're in deep sleep that most of this muscle repair and building process occurs.
During certain sleep cycles, your body releases growth hormone, which is responsible for muscle cell growth and regeneration. Released by the pituitary gland, growth hormone interacts with specific cell receptors that increase muscle mass and protein synthesis.
Sleep deficiency, on the other hand, has shown to inhibit the production of growth hormone. Without the adequate release of growth hormone, muscle building doesn't occur.
How Much Sleep You Need
Most studies have found that getting seven to nine hours per night is ideal for those looking to build muscle. Also, it's important that you stick to a strict sleeping routine. Always go to bed and wake at the same time, even on the weekends when you have the opportunity to sleep longer. Sleeping beyond your regular wake time, while tempting, can cause your body to adjust its circadian rhythm and make it more difficult to fall sleep later on.
Have a Problem Going to Sleep? Try These Tips
It's not uncommon to have problems both falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the entire night. Sticking to a regular routine often helps. If you've been trying to stick to a regular sleep routine and still find that you can't fall asleep or get through the night without having your sleep interrupted, you may need to adjust your pre-bed routine slightly. The following tips may help you out:
Don't work out at night.
While it's not the case for everyone, working out too close to bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep. Exercise increases your body temperature and stimulates your neuromuscular system, which could prevent your body from being able to be fully relaxed once it's time to hit the sack. If you work out in the evenings and don't have a problem falling asleep, there's no need to change your routine. But, if you're lifting weights before you turn in for the night and having sleeping problems, consider adjusting your schedule so that you can give your body at least three to four hours of recovery time before heading to bed.
Avoid alcohol at all times and caffeine in the evenings.
If you're serious about putting on muscle, alcohol shouldn't be a part of your routine anyway. But if you do periodically have a drink before you go to bed, understand that it can mess with your circadian rhythm. You may also find that your body gets overly warm in the middle of the night as it metabolizes the alcohol, which could wake you up.
Caffeine, while beneficial for stimulating your neuromuscular system and increasing your metabolic rate, can keep you up when it's time for bed if you have it too late in the day. Consider cutting out caffeine by mid-afternoon if you're having trouble sleeping.
Turn off screens.
The exposure of artificial light from electronics like phones, tablets, laptops and televisions, causes the body to suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone responsible for maintaining proper circadian rhythm. Turn off or stop looking at your devices at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.