In order to build muscle, you've got to strength train; make sure you're eating enough carbs, protein, and fat; and be consistent with your training. Another important part of the muscle-building equation that often gets overlooked is recovery and getting enough sleep.
To find out how sleep affects muscle growth and how many hours you need each night, POPSUGAR spoke to Rizwana Sultana, MD, assistant professor of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
How Sleep Improves Your Performance
Sleep is essential in order for your brain to function: it enhances your creativity and improves your emotional well-being and physical health. Unfortunately, most of us aren't getting enough sleep. In fact, "More than one third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis," the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reported. As much as you want to stay up late working on projects and binging your favorite Netflix shows, you've got to rest.
"Sleep results in energy conservation and body cell restoration, which results in reduced fatigue, more energy in the morning, and better stamina," Dr. Sultana told POPSUGAR. All of these benefits aid in muscle growth and improve your ability to exercise, she added.
How Sleep Helps You Build Muscle
A full night's rest will improve your performance throughout the day, but it's also necessary because as you sleep, your body produces hormones like growth hormone, which helps you build muscle. "Growth hormone is released during stage three sleep, which is considered to be the deepest stage of sleep," Dr. Sultana explained. In order for your body to function optimally, adults should aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
How a Lack of Sleep Affects Muscle Growth
Have you ever had a few days, or even weeks, where you got by on minimal sleep? We definitely have, but after speaking with Dr. Sultana, we're making it a goal to improve our sleep habits. "When humans are sleep deprived, the normal sleep cycle is disrupted, which affects growth hormone release," she said. You may think that running on five hours of sleep is OK, but it will cause "a sharp decline in growth hormone secretion," Dr. Sultana explained. A growth hormone deficiency will result in the loss of muscle mass and will have a negative impact on your ability to exercise. It's pretty hard to crush a workout and focus when you're exhausted.
If you aren't sleeping enough, your body will begin to overproduce ghrelin, the hunger-promoting hormone. Conversely, leptin, the hormone that signals satiety, is decreased. This can lead to an increase in weight and a decrease in muscle mass. Moral of the story: if you want to build muscle or simply improve your well-being, you've got to take time for yourself and rest.
There isn't one perfect way to improve your sleeping habits, but we recommend creating boundaries when it comes to your work life and personal life. We also advise giving yourself time to decompress once you're home. You can also follow these expert tips to improve your sleep. If you experience difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, we recommend speaking with a sleep specialist.