The most important part of any workout is sleep. Without sleep, working out might as well be a waste of your time. Sleep provides our bodies with needed recovery and restoration.
Sleep Allows Recovery
From a collegiate athlete to your first day of Pilates class, you need sleep to recover. All types of exercise require a good night’s rest for our bodies to strengthen and recover. It doesn't matter if you invented CrossFit or if you’ve only been to the gym three times this year, all of our bodies need recovery time and the best place for this is in bed. Our bodies rely on sleep for proper recovery.
We try it all to get into good shape -- supplements, stretching, new diets, new types of workouts, running, yoga, etc. -- but something that is overlooked is sleep. Sleep helps us get our bodies where we want them to be and helps us recover from our daily exercises. We can’t get in shape by lifting five extra pounds. We need to sleep to help us reach our exercise and fitness goals. Without sleep, our time in the gym is a waste. Without recovery, it is possible to overtrain, which can lead to injury and muscle damage.
Sleep allows our bodies, brains, muscles and bones to recover, and we need to go through an entire sleep cycle to reap these benefits. Sleep doesn't make you weak, it does the complete opposite -- sleep makes you stronger.
How is sleep helpful?
- Sleeping releases HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
- Sleep allows our central nervous system to recuperate
- Allows muscle tissue to repair
- Produces protein for muscle growth
- Restores energy for the body and the brain
- Decreases levels of cortisol (stress hormone)
Insufficient sleep hinders muscle recovery. Sleep gives your body, and especially your muscles, a much-needed break; sleep gives your muscles time to heal and recover from the day’s activities. It doesn't matter if you did heavy weightlifting or went on a short run; we all need sleep to restore our bodies.
A healthy, eight-hour sleep cycle is crucial for recovery. The reason recovery requires a full night of healthy sleep is because our bodies go through different sleep cycles throughout the night. For our bodies to recover, we need deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the sleep where you have all the crazy dreams. That's why the quality of sleep is part of this equation.
REM sleep helps reduce stress, blood pressure and cholesterol, which is all part of the recovery process. The best part is you don’t have to do anything but sleep… It’s that easy. During sleep, your body releases hormones, and the most popular is the human growth hormone (HGH). Think of HGH as a natural and healthy steroid for your body.
HGH helps repair muscle and muscle tissue and this helps your muscles become bigger and stronger. During sleep, protein synthesis is released and this “feeds” our cells to keep our bodies happy and healthy. Simply put, our bodies need sleep for said bodies to function normal and to stay healthy and strong. Our immune systems boost and we are less likely to become sick. The last thing that is important to know is our cortisol levels decline, which is our stress hormone, so things like our blood pressure become lower and that helps us live a healthier and longer life.
Getting a full night of rest lets us avoid feeling sore the next day. Now you can work out without worrying about not being able to do anything the next day because your legs are cramping or your arms are too tired. Sleep replenishes our muscles so we can avoid soreness and it won’t hinder our plans for the day. Unfortunately, now you truly do not have an excuse to go to that Zumba class your friend has been begging you to try.
Recharging the body is one thing, but it’s also important to remember that sleep recharges the brain. During our sleep cycle, the chemical, Adenosine, declines. When this happens, it increases our alertness and energy. When our brain is rested and we have mental awareness, we are more likely to be motivated. We know we need motivation to go the gym because if even the slightest part of us is tired, there’s no way we are getting off the couch. Resting our bodies and brains gives us the motivation we want and need.
Sleep allows us to recharge from our daily activities and, most importantly, sleep provides us with the strength to continue to live an active lifestyle. It allows our bodies to be recovered for the next morning run, a lunchtime Pilates class or a quick pick-up game of basketball. Sleep does more for our bodies than we can do by being awake. Sleep is the new Gatorade.
McCloud, Aaron. "Why Sleep and Exercise Recovery Is Critical After Working Out." ShapeFitcom. ShapeFit, 20 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.shapefit.com/recovery/sleep-exercise-recovery.html>.
Quinn, Elizabeth. "Why Athletes Need Rest and Recovery After Exercise." Verywell. Verywell, 29 June 2019. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <https://www.verywell.com/the-benefits-of-rest-and-recovery-after-exercise-3120575>.
Schocker, Laura. "Your Body Does Incredible Things When You Aren't Awake." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 23 Sept. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/07/your-body-does-incredible_n_4914577.html>.