Sleep is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects to muscle recovery and yet it might be one of the most important. Recent studies looking at the affect of sleep and muscle recovery have shown that a lack of sleep has a number of negative side effects including: lack of energy, decreased muscle growth, and a decrease in positive body composition to name a few. Let's take a look at the different stages of sleep and how they can affect your muscle recovery.
NREM, or non-rapid eye movement, makes up a majority of the time spent sleeping. Up to 40% of your time asleep is spent in this stage. During nREM, your brain waves slow down significantly resulting in a greater availability of blood to your muscles. With this increased blood flow to your muscles comes an increase in the oxygen and nutrients that are critical to muscle recovery. One major nutrient that is increased during the nREM stage of sleep is human growth hormone, or HGH. HGH is a naturally occuring hormone that your body creates to aid in things like muscle growth, bone growth, and regular homeostasis. A lack of HGH in patients has been shown to significantly decrease muscle mass and bone density.
REM, or rapid eye movement, is the other major stage of sleep that aids in muscle recovery. During the REM stage of sleep, your brain activity increases which in turn leads do a decrease in muscle activity. This allows the muscles to relax and release some of the strain that they have built up through out the previous day. Additionally, this helps to migrate some of the nutrients that were brought into the muscles in the nREM stage of sleep.
With this in mind, every athlete should be aiming to get 7-9 hours of consistent sleep every night. This will allow their muscles to fully recover from the previous days activities and allow for you to be firing on every cylinder by the next day!