9 Proven Sleep and Muscle Growth Tips: Why you stopped progressing

By Ire | SLEEP

May 05

This article will discuss 9 proven tips that will improve sleep and muscle growth.

Is your friend that started with gym at the same time as you getting way quicker results? Even though it is you who takes it way more seriously. You bough all these supplements online and ready every article you can find on the internet. It just seems like you have been cheated.

Your friend could simply have better genetics, or maybe your friend just does one thing better than you do. SLEEP!

Sleep is a massive part of our lives and is absolutely essential for normal brain function and a healthy body. Not only is it necessary to sleep enough, the quality of sleep is also important. The science of sleep is not very clear yet and is the subject of ongoing research, however we do know that almost every creature in the animal kingdom needs sleep. During sleep our bodies enter an anabolic state, in which it attempts to restore and repair the immune, nervous, skeletal and the muscle systems. We all know our muscles don’t grow while training, but during rest, therefore sleep and muscle growth go hand in hand.

Stages of sleep:

Sleep cycle lasts from 90-100 minutes and consists of 5 stages. Typically, if we sleep 8 hours a night, we go through that cycle five times during the entire night. Have you ever woke up naturally and found out you feel fantastic? Most likely, you woke up straight after the cycle ended, which is a natural way to wake up. Whenever we feel extremely tired in the mornings, chances are that we woke up in the middle of an ongoing cycle.

  • STAGE 0 – awoke, eyes open, can hold intelligent conversation
  • STAGE 1 – transition to light sleeping. If awoken, person will claim they never slept
  • STAGE 2 – Still light sleep, however it is harder to wake up
  • STAGE 3 – Deep sleep, hard to awaken some in that stage.
  • REM (Rapid Eye Movement) – dreaming stage, active waves.

Scientific approach to training is necessary to improve results and to get the most of our time in training and recovery. All studies mentioned will be linked. So here are 9 tips you can use, to improve both sleep and muscle growth.

1. Practice good sleeping habits

German otolaryngologist came up with the Theory of Biorhythms. It claims that our lives are significantly effected by habits or rhythmic cycles. Many organisms disprove this theory, however it was found to be true when it comes to sleep. Not having regular sleeping habits will mess up with your sleep cycle and more importantly muscle building hormone secretion (HGH). In experiment when subject would be taken away all environmental cues (not knowing what time of the day it is), peak levels of HGH release was decreased significantly. HGH or growth hormone is responsible for growth of muscle tissue. That is why timing and duration of your sleep habits will affect how much your muscle can grow during sleep.

2. Improve your sleep environment

Sleeping is a anabolic stage in which our body and our mind are calm. Preparing for sleep will lead to faster transition to sleep stages when we actually go to sleep. Follow the checklist below in order to create proper sleep environment:

  • Keep room quiet and dark (earplugs + heavy curtains)
  • Avoid large meals just before bed (especially sugar. More sugar in your system = less HGH secretion)
  • Do not work an hour before bed
  • Keep your room cool (55-75 degrees)

3. Avoid rigorous exercise 1 hour before your desired sleep time

Exercise is a catabolic stage in which we break down muscle tissue and our body temperature increase due to increased heart rate. Overall, after many studies reviewed, it has been observed that evening exercise does NOT negatively affect sleep. However, exercising rigorous 1 hours before bedtime correlates with shorter total sleep time and lower sleep efficiency.

4. Avoid caffeine within at least 6 hours before bed time

In the study, 12 healthy men and women would maintain their healthy sleeping patterns but have been given 400mg of caffeine or placebo in different parts of the day. Either 0, 3 or 6 hours before sleep time. Of course, 0 hours showed biggest sleep disturbance, however even taking caffeine 6 hours before bedtime affected sleep amounts by more than one hour. Therefore, sleep quality was poorer when consuming caffeine during both three points of the day.

What has found to be the most interesting is that perception of caffeine’s effect did not change the result. That means that even though subject did not feel the effect of caffeine on their body, sleep monitor would still show that their sleep was affected negatively. Therefore, do not just trust how you feel in your body. Do not drink caffeine within 6 hours before you go to bed and just trust that your body and muscles will thank you later.

5. Eat a well balanced diet (improves sleep)

Research on balanced diet improving sleep is actually weaker than unhealthy diet causing poor sleeping habits. Data shows that eating too little fiber, much saturated fat and sugar is linked to poor quality sleep.

6. Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep

It should be pretty obvious that alcohol and good night sleep don’t mix well. Surely, you feel like you are on a roller coaster and you fall asleep in just about 3 seconds, but what really happens within the cycles is another story.

  • Alcohol reduces REM stage or eliminates it completely. Because of that you are more likely to wake up groggy and unfocused.
  • Alcohol causes you to wake up in the middle of the night due to distribution of natural chemical processes
  • You are more likely to have breathing problems or snoring due to complete throat relaxation due to alcohol
  • Alcohol which is a natural diuretic will cause you to disrupt your sleep and muscle growth cycle due to night bathroom visits

7. Consider light and dark therapy

Human body is used to waking up when the sun comes up and go to sleep when it gets dark at night. When that happens, melatonin levels are regulated to desired levels.

During the night, our melatonin levels are supposed to be highest, which will cause us to feel sleepy. Technology hasn’t really been the most helpful when it comes to regulating our melatonin levels. Problem is that we live in the environment that is filled with light during the night. Blue light from screens will lower our melatonin levels in the brain. That can all be avoided by making sure that your screens are in night screen mode at least 2 hours before going to sleep. I use chrome extension called f.lux, which does that for me. It recognizes what time the sun sets in your time zone and progressively switches to yellow light. What is more, $11 glasses from amazon have been tremendous help with blocking blue lights outside the apartment or just everything else but the screen. I usually wear them about 4 hours before I go to sleep (plus it makes me look cool?)

During the day time, melatonin levels should be broken down in order to feel alert in the morning and through the day. Usually, sun does that job (10,000-20,000 lux). Living in Sweden, winter time really bring out the worst in people. Being dark for 20 hours straight is a big reason why Scandinavian countries have a big alcoholism problem. Spending our time mostly indoors also limits sun expenditure tremendously. That is why light therapy has become such a big trend. Turns out, you can buy just about anything off Amazon, including The Sun. I have my light set up for a timer which is about 15 minutes before I intend to wake up. That leads to most of my mornings feeling like a beast.

8. Add supplements to your diet

Melatonin as oral supplement

Magnesium

  • Lack of magnesium, a dietary mineral leads to impaired sleep
  • Low magnesium levels are common for athletes or gym goes due magnesium being lost through sweat
  • FDA recommend taking up to 350mg of magnesium daily through either magnesium rich foods or supplements.

Vitamin D

  • We have all heard how vitamin D gets released during sun exposure
  • That is why many individuals supplement vitamin D during winter times.
  • There has been indicators showing correlation between low blood vitamin D and poor sleep
  • Research is not clear whether this happens due to direct or indirect reasons

9. Lower your stress level, at least before bedtime

Stress increase cortisol levels which decreases testosterone levels. My job as a Personal Trainer is to decrease unnecessary stress through not over-training my clients. Their homework is to decrease unnecessary stress at least before bedtime. That is usually done through the agreement of not reading/watching non-fiction after 8 pm.

Find out what is the thing that causes 80% of the stress in your life and figure out a way not to deal with it at least before going to sleep. That could be either dealing with it ahead of time or planning your next day and how you will deal with it in the future.

Sleep and Muscle growth. Male sleeping in bed

SLEEP AND MUSCLE GROWTH: CONCLUSION

Sleep goes hand in hand when it comes to building muscles. Muscle tissue regenerates and grows during we sleep. That happens through different chemical reactions like growth hormone (HGH) secretion. Poor sleep will change the chemical processes which will restrict the amount of muscle that will regenerate and therefore grow during sleep. That means that all the hard work that you put in lifting weights will reap limited benefits if you do not have proper sleep during nights.

We can increase our sleep and muscle growth through good sleeping habits, improving sleep environment, caffeine regulation, correct food and drink consumption and many others…

Many athletes or gym-goers like to get fancy with massages and spend money on different recovery ways. While all those could be helpful, nothing will beat high quality sleep.

Everything states above is easier said than done. Life gets in a way and sometimes we need to sacrifice our sleep and muscle growth in order to finish that paper or report that is due tomorrow… In my opinion, it all comes down to the matter of what you prioritize. Plan ahead so you will be able to keep up with healthy sleeping schedule.

After reading this article, hopefully you realize the importance of sleep and will prioritize it better. Only that way can the gains keep pouring in.

LIFT, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT

About the Author

Hey, my name is Ire.I am a Personal Trainer/ Strength Coach based in Stockholm, Sweden.When you don't find me in the gym, I will most likely be on a Track and Field stadium throwing around a discus.

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