The Best Kind of Recovery? SLEEP

“When in competition or heavy training, sleep is the most important factor in achieving my optimal athletic performance.” – Rebecca Johnston  

If you’ve been an athlete or been around athletes then you are probably aware that recovery is extremely important when it comes to maximizing your time spent at the gym. There are several different methods of recovery such as regularly going to a masseuse, cryotherapy, dry needling, using a device like Compex or a Theragun, and several others. However, oftentimes these methods can be expensive and not accessible for a lot of people. So, what is one of the best (and cheapest) methods of recovery? Getting adequate sleep.

There are many positive results of getting the right amount of sleep, such as increased alertness, better decision making, the ability to focus better, etc. As an athlete, getting the proper amount of sleep is one of the most important factors in improving performance. So, how much sleep should you be getting? The answer can vary based on age and activity level, but generally speaking, individuals 18+ should be getting approximately 7-9 hours of sleep each night. 

Getting the proper amount of sleep is extremely important because of the role sleep plays in recovery. While you are grinding it out in the gym, your central nervous system is working double time to send messages to the proper muscles, formulate an appropriate response to pain, react to different variables, etc. Therefore, it is during sleep that your CNS is able to recuperate so it can do its job again the next day. Without enough sleep and a rejuvenated CNS, you will be slower, weaker, and less coordinated during your next workout.

Another reason why sleep is important is that it can positively impact your body composition. If you’re trying to increase lean body mass, lose body fat, or a combination of the two, then getting enough sleep is a great place to start. There are two anabolic (muscle-growing) hormones that need sleep to do their jobs. The first is Growth Hormone which helps increase skeletal muscle and research has shown that 70% of GH is released during our sleep cycles. 

The second hormone is testosterone which is increased during exercise and helps in muscle development and recovery. Similar to the growth hormone, testosterone production is linked to deep sleep and research has shown that sleeping less than 5 hours can decrease testosterone production by 10-15%. If you want to increase your lean body mass by increasing your skeletal muscle, then getting enough sleep is one of the factors that will help you achieve that goal.

In conclusion, if you’ve been feeling sluggish during metcons, struggling to hit heavy weights, or having to take more rest days than normal to let your body recover, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your recovery habits. Sleep is one of the best ways your body can recover so getting enough of it needs to be a top priority. When in doubt, get more sleep!