Why You Shouldn't Skimp on Sleep During Training

July 4 2019

This is a guest post written by Mary Lee from Tuck.com

Hard work and a healthy diet are a sure way to train effectively, right? Turns out there’s more to it than that. To maximize the effectiveness of your workouts, you need sleep. For adults, that’s a full seven to nine hours of uninterrupted shut-eye. Sleep gives your body time to recover, rebuild, and contributes to your athletic performance in more ways than one.

Muscle Building and Recovery

Any damage that’s been done to the muscle tissue whether it be from a hard workout or injury requires recovery time. While you need a day off from training every now and then, the majority of the work takes place while you sleep. Sleep plays a “permissive role” in muscle recovery, allowing the body to invest its resources towards building stronger muscles.

Muscle building and repair both require human growth hormone (GH), which gets released during stage 3 sleep, the first of the deep sleep stages. You experience a spike in GH during the first sleep cycle of the night and subsequent smaller bursts until you wake up. However, during sleep deprivation, the timing and amount of GH released changes. There’s a delay in release and it never reaches the full amount that you’d normally get when you get enough sleep.

Improved Performance

Adequate sleep can also help improve your physical and mental performance. While you sleep, the brain gets to work removing harmful proteins that can be toxic to brain cells. It also eliminates unneeded connections while strengthening those that are used the most. Without this cleansing/pruning time, neurons in the brain slow down their activity.

As the brain slows down so do your thought processes, reaction times, and decision-making skills. These changes can’t help but affect your athletic performance. A study conducted amongst Standford University’s men’s basketball team explored the relationship between sleep deprivation and athletic performance. When athletes sleep time was extended to ten hours, their sprint times, free throw percentages, and three-point shot percentages increased. Participants also reported feeling happier, less fatigued, and more alert during the day.

Whether you’re looking to break a personal record, shave seconds off your time, or simply feel better after a long run, you’ll need sleep to do it.

Better Times with Healthy Sleep Habits

Like all aspects of your life, sleep can be improved with healthy habits. To catch a few more minutes of sleep try:

  • Keeping a Consistent Bedtime: The human body loves a good routine. By keeping a regular schedule, the brain can correctly time the release of sleep hormones.
  • Avoid Strenuous Workouts Close to Bedtime: An evening run might seem like a good idea, but the rise in body temperature and release of endorphins and adrenaline can keep you awake for hours. Try to avoid strenuous workouts within four hours of bedtime.
  • Get Comfortable: It could be a lumpy mattress or a few running aches pains that keep you awake. Either way, getting comfortable is essential for restful sleep. You may need an extra pillow or a mattress topper to get the right level of support but extend your sleep hours.

To truly get the most out of your training, you have to give your body the time it needs to recharge, heal, and rebuild. When you get the rest you need, you’re allowing your training to work to the fullest, pushing you to the next level.