I have always been told sleep is important and that you should always get 8 hours sleep. Drink eight glasses of water, get eight hours of sleep? What is it about the number eight? After hearing these cliches, I decided to do my research on sleep, how much I really needed and how important it is in a bodybuilder’s journey.
In the previous article, I briefly mentioned sleep and how it helps with nutrition. In this article, I will be going deeper into sleep and its importance in your Bodybuilding journey. Let’s talk about sleep.
What is Sleep?
Sleep is considered as a naturally recurring state that the body and mind undertakes. Due to the decreased ability of your body to react to stimuli, it distinguishes itself from the state of being awake. Sleep is a cycle that recurs naturally because it is necessary. Consider your body as a battery. After numerous activities done throughout the day, at some point that battery will need to be recharged. If we refuse to recharge that battery..well…let’s just say your body will come to an involuntary halt.
Many people think that when you sleep, your body goes into complete hibernation mode or even a state similar to a coma. There is some truth to that as some of the body functions are somewhat reduced but not as drastic as hibernation. My mother would beg to differ. According to her, absolutely nothing affects me when I’m sleeping. I could sleep through anything…Ok, we are straying from the topic here. The body is not as inactive as you might think. Things happen in the body while sleeping you can only imagine. There is an ongoing study on sleep because some things are still unexplained.
What Happens to You When You Sleep?
We know that when we go to sleep, we normally lie down and our eyes close. This normally happens at night, but what really happens to us? We might be tempted to think that the body goes to a passive state of unconsciousness but after further reading, you will find out that it’s not as unconscious as you might think. Our bodies go through an active internal restoration and recuperation process that is essential to our health and is far from passive.
An invention called the electroencephalography was created in 1924 by the German psychiatrist, Hans Berger, to record sleep. Researchers found out that our brains were very active at times and that sleep was a dynamic behavior. Based on numerous studies that measured eye movement and muscle activity, it revealed two main types of sleep. The two main types of sleep are Rapid Eye Movement(REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement(N-REM).
On the electroencephalography, the REM is often called “active sleep”. Many experts believe these eye movements are closely related to dreams as people reported they were dreaming when awoken from REM sleep. People weren’t dreaming much when awoken from NREM sleep. What’s interesting is that, when in the REM sleep, muscles in the arms and legs were temporarily paralyzed. This, they say is a neurological barrier that prevents us from playing the role in our dreams. Therefore, if you are planning to kick that monster while in your sleep, think again. Mission impossible!
The Non-REM(non-Rapid Eye movement) sleep has three stages.
- NREM Stage One
- NREM Stage Two
- NREM Stage Three
During these stages, the brain waves become progressively more synchronized and slower as the body advances from NREM stage one to three. Stage three is considered as deep sleep or slow brain wave activity. It seems most of the magic happens in stage 3 NREM sleep.
If you are calculating me with me, you will notice that’s four stages. One REM stage and three stages for NREM. Which stage happens first? NREM. The first stage is NREM stage one. This can last seconds to minutes after there is slow eye movement.You can identify this stage when you see people start nodding off. The second stage is NREM stage two which normally lasts 10 to 25 minutes. Then comes the third stage of NREM which last about 20 to 40 minutes. It is what you would refer to as deep sleep. In this stage, it’s harder to wake someone.
After stage three of NREM the body for about 5 to 10 minutes transitions into REM which is a lighter sleep stage. That’s when most people start dreaming. These stages make one cycle and happen about 5-6 six times throughout out your sleep, for approximately 90 minutes, with each stage lasting a variation of times in each cycle. Now that you understand the stages of sleep and the process the body follows throughout the night, let’s find how and when sleep can help you fast track your bodybuilding journey.
How Sleep Helps You in Your Journey?
There is a Christmas story that I always refer to when explaining what happens when you sleep. The story is about a shoemaker who went to sleep and woke the next morning to see the shoes he had set out to work on already sown.
The body does something similar when you go to sleep. Once you go into sleep mode, these little men come out and start repairing and creating new things. The NREM stages control 75% of your sleep and REM take up the remaining 25%. Nothing much happens in NREM stage one as this is the bridge between being asleep and awake. Stage two of NREM starts preparing your body for restoration and repairs. Your body slowly detaches itself from its surroundings, body temperature drops and your breathing and heart rate regulates.
By the time you get to stage three of NREM your is body fully prepared to work its magic. In this stage your breathing gets slower, blood pressure drops, the muscles become relaxed, the blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs and your energy is restored.
After the NREM stages are completed, the REM stage comes in and the brain gets active. The eyes move back and forth, the body becomes temporarily paralyzed as the muscles are turned off to provide energy to the brain and body and support daytime performance.
I’m sure a lot more happens while we sleep but these are areas we will be focusing on because tissue growth and repair is occurring. That is essential for a all of us regardless if we are in a bodybuilding program or not.
This stage is very important to your Bodybuilding journey because all the muscle repairs that we need, will take place here. Not only does it promotes muscle growth and recovery but it helps with hormones. Adequate sleep increases the hunger-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. Researchers believe that these hormones go crazy when you lack sleep which causes you to crave high-calorie foods.
Having these hormone regulators are very important in your nutrition program, as they can help you to either gain or lose weight. Making decisions on a well-rested brain can help you think clearly and logically. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found out that people with sleep-deprived brains did more late-night snacking and overeating. Sleep deprivation affects the body’s ability to process insulin and other food energies. After four days of insufficient sleep, researchers found out insulin sensitivity dropped by more than 30%. When your body doesn’t respond to insulin, it has a hard time processing fats from your bloodstream so it ends up storing them as fats. That really messes up your metabolism.
As bodybuilders, we are always ready to try the next best thing to give us the result in the fastest time possible; whether it is a diet, new supplement or new apparel. Out of all these, nothing beats sleep. When we work out at the gym, there is something that happens to our muscles that we refer to as “tearing muscle”. No, the muscle is not literally torn. That’s actually dangerous. It is just really sore. What causes the soreness after a workout? This is a result of small, safe damage to muscle fibers called Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness(DOMS). The muscle becomes tender, sensitive to touch and bit uncomfortable.
I love the sore feeling after workouts. It makes me feel really accomplished and that what I did in the gym made a difference. When you sleep, most of the recovery happens and therefore should be a very vital part of your daily routine. Lack of sleep won’t help you in your recovery. Not only do the muscles repair during sleep but it helps burn more calories than usual which also promotes weight loss. A lot more happens when you sleep but we have just briefly touched upon nutrition, muscle growth and recovery. You might be wondering though, is there a more ideal time to sleep? Let’s discuss that next.
Timing is Everything
My mother would always tell me, “there is a time and a place for everything.” Sleep patterns are very specific to the individual. There are numerous factors that affect your sleep pattern such as: age, your job, time of day or night, exercise, stress, among other things can influence your pattern. It’s really hard to say when you’ll get the best sleep. The quality and quantity of your sleep can also affect your sleep pattern. In case you were wondering, your sleep pattern is the cycles that your body goes through while you sleep (REM and NREM previously mentioned). The pattern would determine your internal clock.
Constantly missing a night’s sleep, irregular sleep schedules, or frequent disturbance of sleep can affect sleep stages and sometimes cause prolonged deep sleep. Whenever you decide a sleep routine, ensure that you can get at least eight hours disturbance-free sleep so your body can do what it has to effectively. Your sleep times might fluctuate sometimes but try to keep it as consistent as possible. If you struggle with this every single day try taking baby steps first by finishing up work 30 minutes earlier to go to sleep. Eventually, you will establish to your idle sleep time.
How to Fit Sleep in Your Daily Routine
Some people think about sleep as the last thing on their schedule. I have noticed that when I plan my sleep time first then I can easily figure out everything else. For instance, I know that I normally sleep 8 – 9 hours so I have 15 – 16 hours for everything else. I then write down when I want to wake up and calculate 8 or 9 hours backward to find out what time I need to go to bed. If you are still having difficulty deciding what time to sleep, check out this sleep calculator I found the other day. I hope you find it useful.
Once I have my sleep and wake time, I can plan everything else around that time. One of the fastest ways to fall asleep is to remove all distractions. Turn off all devices with lights. Put away the phone and have the room as dark as possible to indicate to the brain that it’s bedtime. Believe me when I tell you, once you have your sleep structured everything else that you have to do will fall into place.
There is a famous quote that people constantly use. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” If you are planning to be a bodybuilder, remove that quote from your library complete. It will be almost impossible to achieve anything close to your ideal body without consistent, proper sleep. Sleep should be your favorite thing to do, after eating of course.
I believe I went into enough details about sleep to explain how important it is in your growth as a healthy human and as a bodybuilder. I hope that my explanation gave you a better understanding of its importance.
This article is the sixth of ten health & nutrition principles in the “How to Be a BodyBuilder” series. In the next article, I will be discussing the principle of proper exercise and how strength training can place yourself on a track to enjoy higher energy levels and greater quality of life.