Discover the vital relationship between sleep and muscle growth, why not getting adequate sleep will prevent strength gains, and what you can do to improve them both!
In man’s eternal quest to get stronger, he’s tried everything from eating bull’s testicles to injecting himself with horse tranquillizer. Amazingly, though, one of the best natural strength enhancers – one that is able to be used very easily at no cost – has been completely ignored.
What is it?
The relationship between strength and sleep is little understood, let alone appreciated, by most strength athletes. In this article, we will explore that relationship. In the process we’ll discover what you can do to maximise your strength building potential by optimising your sleep pattern.
People who don’t get enough sleep are not as strong as those who do. This simple fact was confirmed in a landmark 1994 study. The researchers looked at the effects of partial sleep deprivation on sub-maximal and maximal weightlifting exercises. The weightlifters were given just three hours of sleep for three days in a row. Their maximal lifts were down on all exercises tested. These included the bench press, deadlift and leg press. The average bench press one-rep maximum was down by 20 per cent.
Now, most of us are, hopefully, going to average more than three hours of sleep per night. So, our strength isn’t going to drop off by twenty per cent. But even an hour or two less than the optimum of 8 hours of sleep is going to have a negative impact on your strength level. And let’s face it – even a 1-2 per cent drop off in strength is bad news. After all, you want to be achieving new p.r.’s, not going backwards!
Our hormones are like the orchestra conductors of our body. They control everything about is, including how strong we are. One of the most important hormones in that regard is Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is a part of the endocrine system. HGH stimulates the liver to secrete insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), which, in turn, triggers muscle growth.
The body’s release of HGH is controlled by a neurohormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GHRH). The body releases it in bursts over the course of a 24-hour day. However, researchers have estimated that 75 per cent of it is released during the hours of sleep. And the main period of that release tends to occur during the first period of stage 3 sleep, which happens about an hour after falling asleep. If we are sleeping for eight hours, we will experience four to six bouts of stage three sleep. That is when HGH gets released into the bloodstream to initiate the muscle repair process.
When our sleep pattern is interrupted, such as when we party into the wee small hours, our HGH cycle is interrupted. So, even if we were to get to sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning and then snooze through to eleven, the amount of HGH released during that eight hours would not be as much as if we were following our normal sleep pattern.
It is during the hours of sleep that protein synthesis is also at its most efficient. During the hours of rest, while the body is not having to digest food, the bulk of the repair and recovery of muscle tissue that has been broken down by your training takes place. Regular, uninterrupted sleep allows for a nightly cumulative effect. This results in your muscles repairing to be slightly bigger and stronger than they were. But this can only happen if you are maintaining good sleep habits.
To maximise your workout recovery for strength gains you need to get a good night’s rest. So, having established the vital link between sleep and weight training strength gains, the question now becomes what can we do to promote better sleep. Here are a few things that you can implement, starting tonight, to improve your relationship between strength and sleep:
If, after following the tips mentioned above, you are still having problems getting to sleep, you should consider taking a natural sleep-enhancing supplement. Here are two that have been proven to work:
Sleep and strength go hand in hand. Getting the optimal amount of sleep for you is essential to maximising your strength potential. As a result, you need to prioritise it alongside your training and nutrition to keep getting stronger.
Aim for a consistent pattern of eight hours of sleep per night. To achieve it, make your bedroom a place for sleeping and having sex only, drink water an hour before bed. If you feel the need, use a natural supplement to get you off to sleep. Do these things to optimise your sleep habits and you will definitely start getting stronger in the weight room.