Most muscle recovery happens during sleep. During the various stages of sleep, your body releases hormones that increase muscle mass. These hormones include human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. Sleep is also the time where your body repairs muscle damage and makes it stronger. Recovery is maximized during sleep because you aren’t spending energy on other tasks. This gives the body the time, energy and resources that it needs to grow muscle.
How to maximize muscle recovery with good sleep?
Make sure that you are giving your body the right nutrients that it needs
During sleep, your body converts nutrients into tissue. Amino acids from protein are reconfigured into muscle tissue. Glycogen stores are replenished using carbohydrates. Lipids from fats are used to create testosterone and regulate other muscle-building hormones. On that note, did you know that testosterone is made from cholesterol?
Your body also needs micro nutrients. For example, antioxidants will help the body to get rid of the oxidation created during exercise and magnesium is needed for muscle recovery. Your max bench press will never improve if your body doesn’t have the right nutrients.
Sleep at the same time every day for the best recovery during sleep
Your body works on a sleep clock. The circadian rhythm refers to this cycle. This ‘sleep clock’ regulates when you should be awake and when you should be asleep. It works in 24-hour cycles. When you sleep at the same time every day, your body knows when to be sleepy and when to be awake. Sleeping at the right time, i.e. when your body anticipates sleep, maximizes the effects of sleep and recovery. This is very important because your body will be able to spend more of its resources on recovery when it knows when to do so.
Having regular sleeping patterns also encourages the up-regulation of muscle building hormones like testosterone and human growth hormone. When you sleep at the same time every day, you will reduce the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep and increase the amount of high-quality sleep that you get.
Avoid the blue light from screens before sleep
Blue light signals daytime to our brains. This makes us think that it is not time to sleep. Staring into the blue lights emitted from screens from mobiles or computers can, therefore, push back our circadian rhythms. When you finally put your phone down and roll over to sleep, your brain needs to play catch up with the fact that it is night time and time to sleep. That is why you can take longer to fall asleep – even if you are very tired.
Try avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed so that your brain can start producing the right sleep hormones like melatonin. This will increase sleep quality and improve overall recovery.
Do something that relaxes you before sleep
I have found this tip to be one of the most effective ways of increasing sleep quality. Your body translates ‘relaxing time’ into ‘recovery time’. This is exactly why you shouldn’t do static stretches before a hard work out. Static stretches relax the body. This makes it more prone to pro-recovery activities instead of pro-energetic activities like exercise. Your body is better at spending energy on muscle growth when it is in a pro-recovery state. This is because the less physical activity requires less energy.
These two systems are known as ‘fight or flight’ mode or ‘rest and digest’ mode. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are the scientific names of these two systems. One is primarily responsible for the activity, while the other is primarily responsible for recovery. You need a good balance of both of these processes to build muscle optimally.
Sleep at the right room temperature
The best room temperature for optimal sleep is 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. That translates to 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. You might notice that this is lower than the average room temperature. This is because your body prefers a slightly lower temperature for sleep than what it prefers during the day. The concept should make sense because temperatures are almost always lower during night time. Higher room temperatures can cause you to struggle to fall asleep.
One of the ways that the brain prepares the body for sleep is by lowering its core body temperature. This explains why we like to sleep more during rainy days or winter months. If your body temperature can’t drop, your body won’t be able to shift efficiently from wakefulness to sleepiness.
Have a hot bath before bed
I use this method when I need extra physical or mental recovery. The heat has a relaxing effect on the body because of increased blood flow from head to toe. This gives all your muscles fresh nutrients to boost recovery. The relaxing effect of a hot bath will also help your mind to relax and ease into sleep.
You might be wondering if a hot bath is counter-intuitive to my previous point: sleeping at lower room temperature. In fact, the two work very well together. A hot bath forces your body to cool itself down. This gets your body into ‘cooling down’ mode before you sleep. The body’s reaction to heat by cooling itself down is why many people feel sleepy after a really hot bath.
On the contrary, cold showers force your body to warm itself up. It will respond to the extreme cold by increasing its core body temperature. This is why cold showers are great at waking you up and making you feel more energized.
Get rid of negative thoughts before bed for better recovery during sleep
They say that you should never go to bed angry. While this wisdom is great for social, emotional and spiritual reasons; it is just as great for your body (physical). When you feel angry, anxious or stressed, your body will react by tensing its muscles and getting ready for ‘fight of flight’. This can help you to perform better during exercise (i.e. save it for the gym!), but it will decrease the amount of recovery that your body can go through. The more relaxed you feel the more your body can recover on a physical level.
If you struggle with negative thoughts or emotions before bed tries prayer, meditation or writing these thoughts down in a journal. These activities will help to eliminate some of that negativity, and they double up as a great way to relax and avoid screen during bed.
You May Also Like: How to Maximize Your Max Bench Press Without Spot