I recently posted about my thoughts on taking rest days (they are crucial!). In this post, I am going to speak specifically about sleep and its relation to recovery and performance.
As I said in my last post, sleep is necessary for the body and brain to recover and it is when muscle growth occurs (not when you train). Here’s how: your body produces new muscle fiber formations to replace damaged proteins (the ones you damaged while training) when you sleep. So, no matter how much protein you consume after you train, you still need to sleep! Even you were connected to an IV that drips coffee into your body so that you never feel tired…you still need to sleep!
Okay, so now you’re wondering: how much sleep? 7-9 hours/night is recommended. Part of this is a little personal. For example, I feel energized getting 7 hours of sleep each night, but my sister needs 9 to feel rested. Find out what works for you and stick to it!
Here are a few other numbers and facts related to how much you should sleep each night that I learned in my Sport and Exercise Psychology class at Ithaca College, taught by Dr. Greg Shelley:
- Minimal sleep (6 hours or less) for 4 days decreases cognitive functioning, mood, reaction time, coordination, focus and motivation
- Less than 8 hours of sleep can decrease testosterone, which is the primary muscle building hormone, levels by 15%,
- For every 2 hours of time an athlete spends awake & stressed*, it takes 1 hour of sleep to recover
- *all types of stress (relational, educational, or physical) decrease the body’s ability to recover
Here are some tips to improve your sleep (which means you will also improve your recovery and performance!):
- Avoid electronic screens before going to sleep and turn on “night shift” mode if possible (I know iPhones have this feature, I’m not sure about other devices)
- Blue light (used on nearly all cell phones, laptops, and TV Screens) is detrimental to sleep because seeing it decreases the body’s output of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you sleepy, which delays falling asleep for up to 90 minutes
- “Night shift” uses orange light, which does not inhibit melatonin production
- Create a healthy habit of sleep
- Go to bed and get up around the same time each night/day
- Your body will adjust to this pattern, making it easier to wake up and fall asleep each day
- Keep in mind that alcohol and marijuana negatively impact sleep quality
- While a glass of wine may make sleepy, the quality of that nights sleep will not be as good as it would have been if you had avoided drinking alcohol (even though you fell asleep faster)
- Stop all caffeine consumption at least 5 hours before going to bed