Most people aren’t aware of the importance of sleep for muscle strength and growth. However, if you are one of the few fitness enthusiasts who know this, you are maybe wondering how to optimize your sleep hours for better muscle gain. Here are a few practical tips for catching the ZZZs you need.
Sleep affects muscle growth just as much as proper diet, and regular exercise does. Among others, one of the reasons rest is vital for muscle gain is that during snoozing, our body releases anabolic hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone which are crucial for muscle growth. Some studies have indicated that sleeping less than the recommended amount of 8 hours per night may lower your testosterone production. Research suggests that getting 5 hours of sleep per night for a week may reduce your testosterone levels for up to 15%. Sleep is also essential because it helps your body and muscles to rest and recover from your workouts. When you rest, your muscles can heal, repair, and grow.
Here are some practical tips to snooze better for optimum muscle growth:
No Electronics around Bedtime
As you have probably already heard, electronic devices such as your computer, smartphone or tablet emit blue light that affects your melatonin levels, stimulates your brain and prevents you from falling asleep. Melatonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your circadian rhythm, and it’s naturally controlled by light. To sleep better, it’s best to avoid using electronics one hour before bedtime.
Don’t Exercise too Close to Bedtime
After working out, your adrenaline and heart rate are up, and your body temperature is increased. All of these make your brain very active and almost impossible to fall asleep. For better sleep, it’s recommended to work out at least two hours before bedtime.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work out in the evening, but just avoid exercising too close to bedtime. In fact, early evening is an excellent time for working out because that’s the time when protein synthesis in your body is at its highest.
Keep Your Room Dark
Any light in your bedroom, no matter how small and insignificant it seems can get your retina and reach the hypothalamus – a part of your brain that controls sleep. Since light signalizes wakefulness, it can mess up with your sleep and won’t necessarily wake you up, but it may prevent you from entering into deep sleep. Deep or slow wave sleep is vital for the release of growth hormones. So, for better muscle repair and growth, you should keep your bedroom completely dark.
Get a New Mattress
Most of us sleep on mattresses that are more than 10 or even 20 years old. This is very bad because every model should be replaced after seven years. Sometimes we are not aware that our bed is disrupting our sleep. If you wake in the morning tired, groggy or feeling back pain, your mattress is probably the culprit you should blame for bed sleep.
A good mattress can improve your sleep for 60%, so if you have healthy sleeping habits but still sleep in an old bed, you are putting all that effort in vain. On the flip side, getting a new mattress will most likely solve 90% of all your sleeping problems. If you are not sure how to choose a new bed, Real Mattress ratings can help you select the right model based on your sleep need and preferences.
Have a Sleep-Friendly Bedtime Snack
A friendly bedtime snack is a mix of protein with complex carbs. Most protein snacks also contain tryptophan, a natural precursor to serotonin which is a precursor to melatonin and melatonin is essential because it regulates sleep. Great bedtime protein snacks are Greek yogurt, cashews, milk, and eggs, while good carb snacks are oatmeal, bananas, and whole grain bread. Pick one of each, create your bite, and eat it one hour before bed, so it has enough time to digest and activate the tryptophan. Just make sure to cut the carbs about 2-3 hours before bed to improve your HGH secretion.