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Let science help you optimize sleep and build muscle

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Content Editor & Certified Trainer
Lisa studied journalism and is a certified fitness and health trainer, as well as a meditation coach! She spent many years working for different lifestyle and fitness magazines, and she writes articles for us on the topics of working out, fitness, lifestyle and mind.

Do you want to build muscle so that you can focus all your energy on training? That’s a good start, but it isn’t enough if you want the best results. Sleep is just as important – something that many athletes severely underestimate. The quality of your sleep hugely influences muscle growth. We’ll use studies to show you how to optimize sleep to reach your fitness goals.

Getting Enough Sleep Prevents Muscle Breakdown

Numerous studies have investigated the relationship between sleep duration and muscle building and maintenance. The results are clear: participants who got less than six hours of sleep not only built less muscle, their muscle mass actually reduced. This could be because when your body is deprived of sleep, it begins to convert proteins into fat. As the Science Advances Journal reports, these proteins normally serve as building blocks for muscle cells. Participants who slept seven to eight hours were able to maintain and successfully build muscle.

Poor Sleep Reduces Testosterone Production

It isn’t just need proteins you need to successfully build muscle; cell growth also involves a number of hormones. The growth hormone testosterone is one of the most important. The less there is in the body, the harder it is to build muscle. This is one of the reasons men can build greater muscle mass than women, and at a faster rate too.

Your testosterone level depends not only on gender, age and genetic factors, but also on sleep. In 2015, in a study of young men, researchers found that testosterone levels can decrease by up to 15 percent after a week of just five hours of sleep per night – and with it the chances of muscle growth.

Find out more: Read how to successfully regulate your testosterone levels here!

Better Sleep = Better Training Performance

The science is convincing: a good sleep routine plays a crucial role in your training performance and also with building muscle. How you progress also depends on the quality of your workout. The more well rested you are, the more focused and less prone to injury you are at the gym. There are various ways to improve your sleep routine. Here are the top 5:

  1. Put down your smartphone and any other electronic devices, 30 minutes before bedtime. Your bedroom should ideally become a smartphone-free zone.
  2. Use your bedroom exclusively for sleeping and not as a study or home gym as well.
  3. Develop a regular sleep routine. Always go to bed and get up at the same time (during the week, at least).
  4. Drink less coffee in the evening. According to a study published in the Sleep Research Society Journal, caffeine delays the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and can therefore disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
  5. Turn the temperature in your bedroom down to around 18 degrees. This is considered optimal, because it ensures you are neither too hot or too cold at night.

Here are some more practical tips for a restful night’s sleep.

Training and nutrition aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to successful muscle building – good, restful sleep is just as important. After all, the crucial repair and growth processes (i.e. the actual muscle building) take place in bed at night, not in the gym. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night and optimize your sleep hygiene. Remember that the quality of your sleep matters too, not just how long you sleep. There are several strategies when it comes to restful sleep, such as no smartphones in the bedroom and less caffeine in the evening. Find the methods that fit your individual lifestyle.

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