Sleep and Bodybuilding – Size, Strength & Recovery

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    Sleep and Bodybuilding – Size, Strength & Recovery

    Sleep and Bodybuilding – Size, Strength & Recovery

    “Unless you give your body the right amount of sleep, you will never, I repeat, never have the body and life you want to have.” – Sleep Smarter, Shawn Stevenson. (1)

    In Sleep Smarter, Shawn explains to us that sleep impacts every aspect of your life. Sleep can make or break your ability to age slowly, lose weight, prevent cancer, and perform at a high level.

    That is because sleep regulates the production of most hormones. It is part of your circadian rhythm, so it occurs under a repeatable 24-hour cycle. A shocking 15% of your DNA is controlled by the circadian rhythm, including your body’s repair mechanism.

    And sleep scientists and those who have experienced the effect of sleep deprivation are encouraging all of us to pay better attention to the quality of our sleep. Matt Walker, a respected sleep scientist, begins this TedTalk, by explaining that men who get an average of four-five hours of sleep have the testosterone levels of someone ten years their senior.

    Sub-optimal levels of testosterone will limit your ability to lift heavier weights and achieve the physic you want.

    And pharmaceuticals are not the solution. They do not replace natural sleep and seriously interfere with our body’s natural sleep mechanisms, essential to our physical and mental processes. However, some natural remedies can support our body’s natural functioning. Here, we will get into the nitty-gritty of the importance of sleep and bodybuilding, and then we will recommend some natural remedies for improving your sleep.

    Maximize Muscle Growth With Sleep
    How many hours per night do you sleep? 5, 6, 7? Lack of sleep has been associated with poor exercise performance, lack of muscle growth, and an increase in body fat.

    If you are not getting the recommended 8 hours per night, your ability to build muscle and hit your training sessions with maximum intensity will be seriously hindered. You may believe that you function optimally on just 6 hours of sleep. However, the reality is that if you are not getting adequate sleep, then many of your body’s important functionings will be operating at sub-optimal levels.

    Sleep and Recovery
    Any kind of exercise causes muscle damage, especially resistance training. This process is how you form new muscles. The damaged tissue requires extra proteins to repair, thus creating new muscle tissue, this is called protein synthesis and a key component of muscle building and recovery. (2)

    Sleep regulates the production of almost all of your hormones, including anabolic and catabolic hormones.

    Anabolic hormones are responsible for building tissue and are beneficial to protein synthesis. They include things like human growth hormone and testosterone. On the other hand, catabolic hormones breakdown tissue inside the body, the biggest culprit being cortisol.

    Insufficient sleep results in more cortisol and less testosterone. (2) Additionally, human growth hormone is secreted during sleep. (3). Therefore if you are not getting enough sleep, then your ability to recover will be seriously hindered.

    Sleep and Performance
    Despite the extra strain put on their bodies, athletes often do not get enough sleep, partially because workouts and dietary prep can add a few hours to their schedules. (4)

    The occasional night of restricted sleep won’t affect you too badly. However, working on a sleep deficit certainly will. When you do not get enough sleep, your body is in a state of sleep deficit. It needs to make the time back. But if you are repeatedly sleeping for even an hour less than you should, then this builds up and affects the way your body functions over time.

    A few nights of restricted sleep has a direct effect on glycogen storage, which is essential to endurance performance. (5) And studies show that inadequate sleep reduces strength. (6).

    Sleep is also essential for cardiovascular health. This is illustrated by the fact that when we lose an hour of sleep during daylight savings, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. And when we gain an hour, there is a 21% reduction.

    Lack of sleep makes it harder for you to stick to your habits, slows down your metabolism, and increases your cravings for sugary and fatty foods. (7)

    Finally, Matt Walker, stresses the importance of sleep for learning. Sleep is also essential for forming new memories, so when it comes to that mind-to-body connection that is so important in bodybuilding – sleep is an integral aspect.

    How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?
    If you want to maximize your potential, you need to get 8 hours of sleep every night. (8). In fact, some sleep scientists advocate for 9 hours or 10 hours of sleep for athletes because of our additional recovery needs. (9)

    Luckily, you don’t need to have it all at once. Naps can be a great way to fit in extra sleep. In fact, it may be more beneficial to get some of your sleep during the day. Naps have been shown to increase levels of anabolic hormones. (10)

    Simply increasing the daily amount of sleep, regardless of when you get it, can improve performance, mood, reaction times, and energy levels (11).

    Sleep quality is also important. When we get quality sleep, our bodies move through a number of cycles.

    Relaxed wakefulness occurs before you fall asleep. The body prepares for sleep by relaxing the muscles, slowing down the body, and reducing eye movement.

    Stage 1
    Next is drowsiness. Your eyes close, but you can still be woken easily.

    Stage 2: Light Sleep
    This is the light stage of sleep. Muscles sporadically tighten and relax, the heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.

    Stage 3 and 4: Deep Sleep
    These are the deep sleep stages, known as slow-wave or delta sleep.

    Stage 5: REM Sleep
    Intense dreaming and body paralysis occur during REM sleep, a result of heightened cerebral activity. REM is an acronym for rapid eye movement. The first REM sleep period lasts about 10 minutes, and each recurring REM stage is longer, eventually taking around an hour.

    Sleep Tips
    So now we have established the importance of sleep to muscle growth, endurance, and mood. You are probably considering what action you can take to encourage healthy sleep, ensuring you are getting enough high-quality sleep. Here are some great tips:

    • Avoid electronics for a minimum of 2 hours before bed. And if you do use electronics before bed, then use blue-light blocking glasses to protect your eyes, blue light blocks melatonin production and inhibits sleep.
    • Get sunlight onto your skin every day.
    • Sleep in a dark room.
    • Mindfulness exercises before bed, such as sleep meditations.
    • Cut back on alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine.
    • Eat a light snack before bed. (12)
    • Ensure you are consuming enough protein. Studies show that diets high in protein reduce the number of times you wake up during the night. (13)
    • Try herbal remedies for sleep.

    Herbal Remedies for Sleep
    If you are struggling to get 8 hours of sleep per night or find trying to fall asleep stressful, then sleeping medication might be tempting. For some people sleeping pills are necessary, and getting any amount of sleep is better than none. However, sleep medications don’t deliver the same restorative benefits as natural sleep. (14)

    Therefore, when it comes to muscle recovery and peak performance, they are not the best option.

    On the other hand, natural supplements can be very effective and support our body’s natural processes. Some supplements that have been shown to be beneficial to sleep time and quality of sleep are:

    Phosphatidylserine is a nutritional supplement that reduces levels of cortisol and ACTH (which controls cortisol release). (15) Lower levels of cortisol have been connected with more restful sleep. Although studies into Phosphatidylserine are relatively new, supplementation was shown to restore normal sleep patterns in an animal study. (16).

    Ashwagandha has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine to aid sleep. (17) Studies have repeatedly shown that ashwagandha can reduce cortisol levels (18, 19).

    In one 2019 study, participants who supplemented with ashwagandha root extract saw improvements in sleep compared to those who took a placebo. This included total sleep time and how long it took to fall asleep. Those who took Ashwagandha also felt more alert upon waking and had less anxiety and more focus. (20)

    Scientists believe that the biggest deficiency in the world is Magnesium deficiency. In America, it is estimated that nearly 82% of the population is deficient in this vital mineral. What’s worse is that studies have shown that those who are deficient in Magnesium are twice as likely to die prematurely!(21)

    Magnesium is quickly becoming known as the miracle mineral. It is a critical ingredient in over 300 of your body’s enzyme reactions and hormone functions. Magnesium is found in every tissue in your body, and without it, you simply wouldn’t be able to live.

    One of the key indicators of Magnesium deficiency is insomnia. On the other hand, healthy Magnesium levels are associated with good sleep. This correlation makes Magnesium one of the most important ingredients in any sleep-related stack.

    Rhodiola Rose
    Rhodiola Rose is an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body adapt to stress. A process that is beneficial to sleep.

    In one study, participants who supplemented with Rhodiola Rosa had improved sleeping patterns, less fatigue, and improved motivation. At the end of the study, they were given an exam, in which those who supplemented with Rhodiola Rosa scored 8% higher on average than the placebo group. (22).

    Panax Ginseng
    Panax Ginseng is an ingredient that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Following several studies, researchers found that those that had supplemented with Panax Ginseng got better sleep overall. (23)

    They had increased sleep efficiency and decreased total awake time over a 24 hour period. They also found that the subjects had improved REM cycles and spent less time in slow-wave sleep.

    Check out Dream-n-Grow by IronMag Labs.

    Stevenson, S. (2016). Sleep smarter. New York, NY: Rodale Books.
    M. Dattilo, H.K.M. Antunes, A. Medeiros, M. Mônico Neto, H.S. Souza, S. Tufik, M.T. de Mello, Sleep and muscle recovery: Endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis, Medical Hypotheses, Volume 77, Issue 2, 2011, Pages 220-222, ISSN 0306-9877,
    Damien Davenne (2009) Sleep of athletes – problems and possible solutions, Biological Rhythm Research, 40:1, 45-52, DOI: 10.1080/09291010802067023
    Halson, S.L. Sleep in Elite Athletes and Nutritional Interventions to Enhance Sleep. Sports Med 44, 13–23 (2014).
    Oliver, S.J., Costa, R.J.S., Laing, S.J. et al. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 107, 155–161 (2009).
    THOMAS REILLY & MARK PIERCY (1994) The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance, Ergonomics, 37:1, 107-115, DOI: 10.1080/00140139408963628
    Nedeltcheva, A., Kilkus, J., Imperial, J., Schoeller, D., & Penev, P. (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 153(7), 435. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006
    Hans P.A. Van Dongen, PhD, Greg Maislin, MS, MA, Janet M. Mullington, PhD, David F. Dinges, PhD, The Cumulative Cost of Additional Wakefulness: Dose-Response Effects on Neurobehavioral Functions and Sleep Physiology From Chronic Sleep Restriction and Total Sleep Deprivation, Sleep, Volume 26, Issue 2, March 2003, Pages 117–126,
    Bompa, T., & Buzzichelli, C. (2019). Periodization. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
    J. Waterhouse, G. Atkinson, B. Edwards & T. Reilly (2007) The role of a short post-lunch nap in improving cognitive, motor, and sprint performance in participants with partial sleep deprivation, Journal of Sports Sciences, 25:14, 1557-1566, DOI: 10.1080/02640410701244983
    Cheri D. Mah, MS, Kenneth E. Mah, MD, MS, Eric J. Kezirian, MD, MPH, William C. Dement, MD, PhD, The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players, Sleep, Volume 34, Issue 7, 1 July 2011, Pages 943–950,
    Ahmad Afaghi, Helen O’Connor, Chin Moi Chow, High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 2, February 2007, Pages 426–430,
    Lindseth G, Lindseth P, Thompson M. Nutritional Effects on Sleep. Western Journal of Nursing Research. 2013;35(4):497-513. doi:10.1177/0193945911416379
    Walker, M. (2017) Why we sleep. Scribner
    Starks MA, Starks SL, Kingsley M, Purpura M, Jäger R. The effects of phosphatidylserine on endocrine response to moderate intensity exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008;5:11. Published 2008 Jul 28. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-11
    Valadas JS, Esposito G, Vandekerkhove D, Miskiewicz K, Deaulmerie L, Raitano S, Seibler P, Klein C, Verstreken P. ER Lipid Defects in Neuropeptidergic Neurons Impair Sleep Patterns in Parkinson’s Disease. Neuron. 2018 Jun 27;98(6):1155-1169.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.05.022. Epub 2018 Jun 7. PMID: 29887339.
    Kaushik MK, Kaul SC, Wadhwa R, Yanagisawa M, Urade Y. Triethylene glycol, an active component of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, is responsible for sleep induction. PLoS One. 2017;12(2):e0172508. Published 2017 Feb 16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0172508
    Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022. PMID: 23439798; PMCID: PMC3573577.
    Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Ahmad MK, Rajender S, Shankhwar SN, Singh V, Dalela D. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Sep 29;2011:576962. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep138. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 19789214; PMCID: PMC3136684.
    Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar D. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus. 2019;11(9):e5797. Published 2019 Sep 28. doi:10.7759/cureus.5797
    Eisenberg MJ. Magnesium deficiency and sudden death. Am Heart J. 1992 Aug;124(2):544-9. doi: 10.1016/0002-8703(92)90633-7. PMID: 1636608.
    Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, Mironova IA, Neumoin VV. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine. 2000 Apr;7(2):85-9. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80078-1. PMID: 10839209.
    Rhee, Y.H., Lee, S.P., Honda, K. et al. Panax ginseng extract modulates sleep in unrestrained rats. Psychopharmacology 101, 486–488 (1990).
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