Maybe you’re a professional athlete, maybe you’re training for a marathon, maybe you just want to look better in a swimsuit! Whatever your reason for wanting to get fit and build muscle, sleep can help.
Not Just Any Sleep—Deep Sleep
When it comes to sleep, the most important phase for physical performance and muscle growth is the deep sleep phase. In this phase, also known as slow wave sleep or delta sleep, our organs detoxicate, kidneys clean your blood, the body heals wounds and builds muscle tissues. This form of sleep is necessary so that your body can repair and heal itself for the next day.
According to New Health Advisor, it can be hard to wake you up in this sleep stage, and it’s common to feel disoriented for the first few minutes after waking up. Plus for anyone over 18 years old, you need a recommended 1.5-1.8 hours of deep sleep—and you can’t have too much!
In short, deep sleep repairs and restores your body for the next day. But, why is this repair function so important?
How Muscles Grow
Muscles grow through a process of hypertrophy, also described as the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in the size of its cells. In order for hypertrophy to take place muscle cells must first be activated or stimulated.
This muscle growth occurs when cells experience damage due to physical exertion. Exercise, whether it is weight lifting, running or any other activity that puts your muscle cells under stress, triggers your body to repair the damaged cells with growth hormone and protein synthesis. These cause each damaged cell to become larger to be able to better handle the physical demand.
Where Deep Sleep Comes In
Muscle repair and growth occur during deep sleep due to the natural release of growth hormone. Research shows that 70% of the growth hormone humans release occurs during deep sleep, and the more deep sleep you get, the more growth hormone you produce. The maths is simple. If more deep sleep equals more growth hormone, and more growth hormone equals bigger muscles, then more deep sleep equals bigger muscles!
What’s more, multiple studies show that optimised deep sleep is proven to enhance muscle recovery by as much as 30% and improve physical performance by as much as 9%.
How to increase deep sleep
Deep sleep is optimised when we sleep cold. Additionally, when core temperatures are lowered, our bodies release more growth hormone. According to research published in Environmental Endocrinology, after cold exposure, growth hormone secretion increased by over 450%.
Conversely, another study found any major rises in core temperature resulted in complete inhibition of growth hormone release.
“Athletes often ‘sleep hot’. They sweat a lot at night—that has to do with metabolic activity being higher,” says Dr. Chris Winter, the medical director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Therefore, not only does sleeping cold increase muscle growth, but your tendency to “sleep hot” may be working against you and your goals by inhibiting muscle growth.
There are ways to make sure you sleep cold (and no, they do not require cryogenic freezing)!
- Sleep with the thermostat set between 15-19.
- Make sure your bedding is made out of breathable fabric like cotton and avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester. These are more tightly woven and trap heat. Likewise, foam mattresses and gel solutions can also trap heat.
- Wear breathable clothing to sleep. Pyjamas made from Bamboo naturally cool the skin and are 100% biodegradable.
- Use a temperature-regulating mattress pad like chiliPAD or OOLER. They are 100% natural, fit on any bed and can help save on A/C costs!