When it comes to getting fitter, stronger or leaner, the more workouts we do the better, right? Not necessarily. Whatever your goal, making progress with your training is slightly more complex than simply how many hours you’ve logged in the gym – both nutrition and rest also have a huge part to play. In fact, choosing a lie-in over that last Friday morning gym session might be the most beneficial thing you do all week...
Sleep is one of the most overlooked components of our mental and physical health. It’s when our bodies go through physiological, biochemical, and cognitive restoration - pretty important stuff!
Let's break it down: when it comes to athletic performance, non-REM sleep (also known as deep sleep) is the bit that's essential for muscle recovery and restoration. During this sleep phase, your blood pressure drops, breathing becomes deeper, and there will be very little activity in your brain. This means the blood supply available to your muscles is greater, and therefore a larger amount of oxygen and other nutrients will be able to help them heal and grow. This is why getting enough sleep after a tough training session is crucial to grow muscle, lose fat and to help ease any DOMS!
But sleep doesn’t just help your body recover AFTER exercise, it can also boost your performance…
Good quality sleep can make you faster and - even more crucially - able to increase the intensity of your workouts. Why? It’s simple really; you’ll have more energy for physical activity, therefore allowing you to give it your all and perform better!
If you’re a team sports player, sleep can also strengthen your mental fortitude and boost coordination. When in a state of sleep deprivation, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and absorb new knowledge – so squeezing in that training session after a late night out probably isn’t that wise after all!
So, how much do we need?
How much sleep you need to improve your training performance is very individual, and will depend on your genes, lifestyle and activity levels. As a rough guide, it’s thought that most adults need 7-9 hours sleep a night, but athletes or those with extremely intense training schedules might want to up this to 10 hours.
Whatever your goals, making sure you’re well rested is one of the best things you can do to support your training, as well as your overall health!