Sleep is often one of the most undervalued aspects of recovery, health (both emotional and physical), muscle growth and athletic performance. If you don’t pay attention to optimising your sleeping habits and hygiene, then you will struggle to make progress as a healthy athlete, or achieve your full potential in you endeavours.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND RECOVERY
Sleep serves many functions when it comes to recovery, but physical and psychological recovery are two of the most important.
Most people lead fast paced, busy lives, so often sleep is neglected, but with the following tips, and the correct supplementation, you can enhance your sleep and recovery.
BODY-WIDE PHYSICAL RECOVERY
During infancy, childhood and adolescence, sleep plays an essential role in development, as it is the time of day when the largest amount of growth hormones is secreted.
Source: Stevie D Photography
Similarly, although their quantity decreases significantly, these hormones continue to be secreted in adulthood, boosting protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth. This process plays an important part in the recovery from physical effort, as it helps consolidate the worn-out cells in the muscles of the athlete, as well as forming new ones.
Therefore, this is how (and when) most muscle is built. Moreover, these changes at the level of the fibres are also part of the process which eliminates the tiredness you feel in your body after a workout.
As you start to recover after exercise, the food you are digesting is broken down into the components needed for ‘feeding’ the cells in your body, the wider process to which the reparation of damaged muscle belongs. During sleep, physiological functions such as the increase in the parasympathetic activity of the nervous system determine a boost in digestion and further assistance in the muscular recovery.
A sleep supplement, such as Alpha Wolf Nutrition Sleep Aid can be a highly effective way to improve the quality of your sleep. Their combination of Liposomes (rapid absorption technology so you can fall asleep fast), Melatonin (helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles) and GABA (helps body and mind to relax and fall asleep) offer fast acting relief.
Furthermore, the immune system also benefits from the processes associated with sleep, thus regaining much of its potential to fight pathogens when the body’s ‘active’ state resumes.
Source: Stevie D Photography
Our brains process a tremendous amount of data every day. Recalling a piece of information, memorizing somebody’s name or new vocabulary in a foreign language you are learning, making decisions and reminiscing about your last holiday – all these activities place a heavy burden on your brain cells, the neurons.
Therefore, just as your body feels tired at the end of a workout, so does your brain following intense intellectual activity. The brain does not completely shut down during sleep, but stays active, particularly in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, when dreams and sleepwalking or talking occur, alongside with other processes.
However, of the five stages of a sleep cycle, two allow the brain to considerably reduce its activity and recover from the mental effort that was made throughout the day. They are collectively and adequately called “deep sleep”, and take place just before the final, hectic REM stage of the cycle.
Furthermore, scientists believe that sleep works wonders in keeping mood under control, as it is said to basically reset your perception of recent events. You may have noticed that the anxiety or anger you had experienced before going to sleep one night had a significantly lower emotional impact the following morning.
This happens without you being aware of it, while during REM sleep your brain is reliving and categorizing the events which had been causing distress. Consequently, you start seeing them in a new, more balanced light, in this way becoming less likely to overreact or allow them to cause any illnesses such as depression. In fact, research has shown that mental health issues of this kind are closely linked to the amount and quality of sleep one enjoys.
Knowledge is power, so by understanding the processes and hormones that are linked with sleep patterns, you can improve your own sleep quality and cycles.
- Melatonin is needed by our body to help regulate our circadian rhythm (internal clock) which alerts us as to when it’s time to go to sleep and when to wake up.
- Melatonin is well studied, but in one of the most recent studies in 2012, researchers discovered that melatonin improves both sleep quality and length, as well as morning alertness.
- Short for Gamma-Amninobutyric Acid, this is a neurotransmitter that works to reduce the activity of the central nervous system. It has a natural relaxation effect when taken before bed.
- In fact, in a recent study, researchers discovered that there is a direct correlation between insomnia, disruptive sleep and reduced brain GABA.
- This amino acid, found in large quantities in green tea, can aid in relaxation and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. L-theanine actually works to promote increased levels of GABA.
- L-theanine also appears to trigger the release of “alpha waves”, brain waves which are present during the REM cycle of sleep and have been shown to enhance relaxation and focus.
Source: Stevie D Photography
Sleep hygiene ‘Sleep hygiene’ is the term used to describe good sleep habits.
TIPS TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP
We all lead different lives, with many factors that can influence sleep patterns (young kids, shift work, changing environmental seasons etc) but the following tips are indispensable for creating a sleep routine that will allow you to wake up feeling physically recovered, refreshed and ready for every new day.
The first step in your nightly performance routine should involve getting into some form of relaxed state. Anything from a chilled conversation or reading a book, to meditation or breathing exercises will help you to wind down and lower stress levels. As a rough guide, try to take an hour or so before bed when you shut off the laptop, phone or TV and concentrate on the aforementioned activities instead.
The amount of fluid in and around a muscle cell itself is a signal for muscle growth and it’s extremely easy to check this box off before you hit the hay.
Source: Stevie D Photography
During the night you will get dehydrated and it will be worse if you sleep in a hot environment so time your fluid intake to end about an hour before you go to bed to avoid waking up frequently.
Alpha Wolf Nutrition Sleep Aid is a highly effective way to optimize your sleep routine and quality.
Their rapid absorption system delivers a fundamental set of nutrients designed specifically to help you fall asleep FAST and sleep deeply so you can wake up feeling ready to take on any challenge thrown your way! Their high quality sleep aid includes:
- Liposomes – rapid absorption technology so you can fall asleep fast
- Melatonin – helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles
- GABA – helps body and mind to relax and fall asleep
- L-theanine – helps increase relaxation and lower stress
- Glutathione – “Master Antioxidant” reduces oxidative stress on the body
Make sure your room is dark enough.
In a perfect world we have a tightly controlled interplay of the stress/adrenaline hormone cortisol and the relaxing hormone melatonin. As the sun rises, your body produces more cortisol so that you gradually wake up.
To do this, your body also lowers the level of melatonin that it produces. Conversely, when the sun sets, and before smart phones, your body lowers cortisol and increases melatonin so you can get a good night’s sleep.
In our current world, where we’re always connected and have increased levels of anxiety due to our devices, we produce less melatonin and more cortisol, which makes it harder to get to sleep at night and maximise muscle growth.
In short: The more stimulated that we are before bed, the harder it’ll be to finally drift off to sleep.
SWITCH OFF ALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Following on from the last point, electromagnetic fields or smog is rapidly becoming a hot talking point in terms of hormonal health problems.
A recent study has linked frequent exposure to EMF waves as increasing the severity of auto immune disease. Shut off your WiFi at night and place your phone on airplane mode at least five to ten feet away from your head.
SLEEP AND MUSCLE GROWTH
Your sleeping habits and sleep hygiene has enormous effects on your health, fitness, muscle growth, emotional wellbeing and stress levels. Build a routine that favours your body and mind, use the best supplements you can, such as Alpha Wolf Nutriton, and set yourself up for success in the future.