You probably know by now that muscle growth happens during rest and not while you actually train. Based on that, rest plays a major part in muscle building and therefore deserves the same amount of attention the other two crucial activities, namely training and eating, usually get. Rest is a period containing low level of physical activities in between workouts.
That being said, different bodies need different amounts of rest in order to adequately recover, and then the same applies for different body parts. In each case, sleep is the most important part of the recovery cycle and the general recommendation is to get 6-10 hours of sleep every night, depending on your individual needs and the type of physical activity you’re doing. Given that you allow yourself enough rest after each hellish workout, you should find that you’re stronger on each new visit to the gym.
The biggest reason why sleeping is so important is because growth hormone levels peak during deep sleep and this multifaceted hormone has the ability to stimulate muscle recovery and regeneration. While we sleep, the body has a chance to repair, recharge and regrow, which is especially important for bodybuilders. Since the body isn’t moving, the muscles get the time they need to repair themselves and build new tissue by using the high-quality food you’ve eaten during the day.
Finally, sleep allows the brain to recharge, and a rested brain is an important precursor to high levels of concentration and mental fortitude during all daily activities, including training.
Therefore, your muscle building progress is inevitably determined by the quality of sleep you’re getting each night. In fact, sleep is equally important as training and nutrition and neglecting it will harm your gains in the long run and leave you confused as to what are you doing wrong. If you’re constantly sleep-deprived and cranky, don’t expect great results from your training, even if you have the best routine in the world. But don’t take our word for it – try to fix your sleep by applying the following tips to your lifestyle and see the results for yourself!
#1. Fix A Sleeping Time
Age-old wisdom says that going to sleep at the same time every day ensures the optimal functioning of your body’s built-in internal or biological clock which regulates the periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day by releasing adequate hormones. When your internal clock is on the correct time schedule, the quality of your sleep is better, which in turn ensures enhanced energy levels and boosted productivity and also positively influences your overall health.
So in order to reset your body’s clock and start sleeping like a baby, fix a bed time that best suits your schedule and make sure to follow it as strictly as possible.
#2. Avoid Intense Late-Night Workouts
For many people, an intense workout session late in the evening provides a jolt of energy that keeps them awake for a lot longer, even though generally speaking, exercise is good for sleep.
Exercise activates the brain, stimulates the release of adrenaline and cortisol, raises the core body temperature and increases the heart rate. While these effects of working out are truly great for your overall health and especially in relation to your fat loss efforts, again, it’s all about the timing.
As both research and experience suggest, working out late at night might prevent you from going to bed at the optimal time, increasing your energy levels and causing insomnia, or simply diminish the quality of your sleep. You can simply use your evening exercise slots for less-intense types of exercise or skip evening workouts altogether and replace them with morning sweat sessions.
#3. Eat Light at Dinner
Eating light at dinner has many benefits – it’s one of the keys to successful weight loss, it helps regulate insulin levels and enables a smooth functioning of the digestive system and it can be one of the contributors to a better quality sleep. Eating a lavish and spicy dinner will interfere with your sleep and make you slower both physically and mentally the next day. On the other hand, ending the day with a low-calorie dinner will prevent sleep issues caused by an overloaded digestive system and help you sleep deep and tight and wake up feeling fresh and ready for a big hearty breakfast.
#4. Avoid Caffeine After 5 pm
When consumed in the evening or within an hour before going to bed, caffeine disrupts the body’s internal clock and has negative effects on sleep. According to many studies, besides keeping you awake for longer, late-night caffeine consumption can damage core components of the cellular circadian clock and have negative health consequences, especially in the form of cardiovascular problems.
Also, research suggests that drinking your late-afternoon or evening cup of coffee is very likely to cause problems for your sleep even if you aren’t aware of it and can’t feel any noteworthy effects. Bottom line: if you want to enjoy good quality sleep, restrict your caffeine consumption primarily to the morning hours.
#5. Supplement With Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency can cause a plethora of health issues, including sleep disorders. More specifically, a lack of vitamin D will hurt the amount of sleep you get, the quality of your sleep and your mood upon waking up (which is one of the reasons we get the winter blues). To upgrade your sleep, start supplementing with vitamin D3 – begin with a 60k IU dosage per week for the first few weeks, then switch to 1000-2000 IU. Don’t overdo it, however, because too high levels of vitamin D come with their own negative health consequences.
Also, timing is everything: multiple studies have shown that taking vitamin D in the morning works best at helping people get adequate amounts of deep sleep at night, while taking it at night tends to disrupt sleep because of the inverse relation between vitamin D and the sleep hormone melatonin.