A good night’s sleep should leave you refreshed, recovered, full of energy, ready for the day ahead, and… well… hungry.
However, in today’s hectic world, sleep is often an overlooked health factor that is one of the first things to be sacrificed to keep the checkbook balanced and life’s little juggling balls airborne.
This is a grave mistake, especially for those who participate in strenuous sports and pastimes, as sleep is an integral part of the pathway to success.
When training in the gym muscle tissue gets broken down, setting up the construction site for growth. When we consume vast quantities of wholesome, nutrient-rich foods, we provide the site with the building materials for work to commence. By combining these factors with a healthy, stress-free existence, and quality supplementation, activity of anabolic hormones increases along with other growth factors in the body. During sleep, these construction workers are at their busiest. Repairing and building complex muscle structures is a tough job, and the body needs total rest to carry out that job fully.
Natural sleep is far more complex than most people realize. It’s not as simple as closing our eyes and resting consistently until morning. Our bodies go through a sleep cycle of differing stages and depths of slumber. Let’s break it down…
The first stage occurs as you begin to drift off. You become drowsy as physical and mental functions start slowing down. This is the stage when you are most likely to be disturbed as you are barely asleep.
This is classed as light sleep. Consciousness is lost, the heart slows down, body temperature falls, and the muscular system is shutting off. You can still be woken easily at this stage.
Now a deep sleep state is being approached. This is where the real physical repair begins to happen. The brain effectively paralyzes the muscles at this point.
This is the deepest stage of sleep, where the body and mind are at their most relaxed and the anabolic environment reaches its peak. This is the hardest stage to awaken from, and if you are disturbed, you will likely be very groggy and disoriented for a short while.
R.E.M. stands for Rapid Eye Movement, and is the dream stage of sleep. This first occurs approximately 90 minutes after stage 1 begins and lasts for around 10 minutes before repeating throughout the night in longer and longer bursts. During R.E.M. the heart rate, breathing and blood pressure rise, and slight movements of the body are common. While this is not the ideal stage for recovery and growth, scientists believe it is essential for proper mental function, and may be when we subconsciously organize our thoughts and achieve valuable insights.
Healthy sleep moves between these stages throughout the night. Over millions of years, humans have been programmed for this pattern to coincide with the setting and rising of the sun. This is the main reason night work can be so tiring.
While the odd poor night’s sleep will just leave you a little groggy and won’t do any lasting damage, chronic sleep deprivation can build to the point where it not only affects your training but can also have a significant detrimental effect on your overall health and well-being.
The first thing impaired by sleep deprivation is cognitive function and alertness. Everyone has felt that foggy, disorganized head following a bad night’s sleep. This can affect relationships, home and work life, and can even lead to life changing accidents. This mental impairment will inevitably lead to a lack of motivation in the gym, or even a failure to turn up at all. You will be more likely to stop that all important rep short or even skip the final, muscle-shredding set due to a total lack of mental oomph, as well as physical energy.
Pre-workout supplements are a great way to raise motivation and give you the energy to power through your workouts. Sheer Pre-X provides all the energy you need for a great, jitter free session, as well as packing a nitric oxide boosting punch to get the blood flowing for great pumps and deep muscular stimulation.
As well as leaving you tired and grouchy, chronic sleep deprivation places huge stresses on the body and can also lead to far more serious health problems. These include heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke risk. Those with underlying mental health issues are also at risk of worsening symptoms or developing further complications.
Proper sleep promotes a potent anabolic environment within the body, leading to accelerated recovery and increased growth. As you drift deeper through the stages of sleep, your growth hormone and testosterone levels creep up, reaching peak levels at stage 4. Alongside a healthy, calorie dense and protein rich diet, as well as intense, heavy lifting, this provides a recipe for 24-hour gains.
Steer clear of the snooze button in the morning as waking elevates cortisol levels, the enemy of testosterone. The more times you are disturbed, the higher your cortisol, and consequently your stress levels, will be at the start of your day.
To push your testosterone levels higher, try adding a testosterone boosting supplement to your stack. Sheer Alpha+ is jammed with potent ingredients causing your body to raise test levels naturally and boost your muscle building potential.
It has been shown that inadequate sleep can lead to unhealthy cravings and binge eating.
A lack of focus and motivation can lead to a lack of willpower when faced with fatty, calorie packed, quick and easy junk foods. A lack of energy will also lead to a temptation to reach for the most energy dense food on offer, which often is devoid of nutritional value and will almost certainly leave you feeling even worse than before.
Proper sleep also helps to regulate metabolism and digestion. Tiredness will lead to improper absorption of nutrients and poor metabolic function.
Poor sleep can have a direct impact on the body’s fat stores. Studies show proper sleeping patterns leave the body more capable and willing to use stored fat for energy. This effect is doubled when you consider sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance, which as well as leading to a risk of diabetes, also causes the body to store fat from the blood stream rather than pushing it straight into relevant energy cycles.
So, sleep, be lazy, and stay lean!
Obviously, the amount of rest you need depends on the amount of work and stress your body goes through every day. On average, you need between 7 and 9 hours of good quality sleep per night to avoid sleep deprivation and maintain proper mental and physical function.
If you sit at a desk all day then pop to the gym for an hour in the evening, you can probably get away with hitting the lower end of this scale. However, if you spend your days lugging bricks up a ladder before hoisting the iron, you may need the full 9 hours or even more.
You should wake up feeling refreshed and ready for your day. If you consistently drag yourself out of bed, yawning and feeling beat, you’re either not getting enough sleep, you’re overtraining, or both.
If this tiredness is accompanied by poor recovery, aches, and pains in the joints and muscles, headaches, an elevated heart rate, dark, strong urine, or irritability and depression, you are severely overtrained. Take a week or two out from the gym for total rest and let your body recover before you do serious damage.
Taking afternoon naps can help with recovery and give your anabolic hormones a boost. Keep naps down to between 20 and 45 minutes to keep sleep light, so you don’t wake up feeling worse for wear.
Many people struggle to get adequate sleep for completely preventable reasons. Here are a few tips to avoid this problem:
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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