On an average, let’s say that we spend about 8 hours a day sleeping (wishful thinking, yes). If we live for 75 years, we sleep away nearly one-third of our life, that is, 25 years! Seems like we waste quite a few years, doesn’t it? But no, those years of sleeping are what keep you going strong by strengthening your muscles.
When you get little to no sleep, the reason you feel like a lifeless zombie is that your body gets no time to heal. Sleeping is when your body heals all of its broken and beat-up muscles.
Causes Of Muscle Injuries
You might have hurt your muscles due to varied reasons – while playing, lifting heavy objects, or sometimes, doing absolutely nothing. Most of the injuries are because you over-exerted your body. But with the latter kind of injury, it’s more likely because of a nutrient deficiency that has made your body weak and susceptible to damage.
No matter what the cause, with muscle injuries, what your body needs is medication, physiotherapy, and more importantly, sleep! Since you worked your body too hard, isn’t it just fair to give it the rest that it deserves? The more severe the injury, the more rest your body needs.
Different Stages Of Sleep
The whole process of sleeping is not as simple as we think because a lot happens in our body during this time. And the beginning stage of sleep is when you’re about to nod off. Here, your skeletal muscles relax and you feel heavy. If you do not resist sleep and go to bed, your body takes over and puts you through the deeper stages of sleep – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep.
Sleep is a cycle wherein non-REM sleep comes first, followed by REM sleep. Throughout the night, you shift between these stages repeatedly. This is when your body generally faces muscle paralysis. If this doesn’t happen, people sleep walk or thrash around. During REM sleep, as the name suggests, your closed eyes move constantly in different directions. This is typically when you dream.
Healing Muscle Injuries With Sleep
The deeper stage of sleep is when your body recovers, specifically during NREM sleep. When you’re in this unconscious state, your body gets busy recovering; regrowing and healing bones, tissues, and muscles; and boosting your immunity. How does this happen?
1. Plasma Growth Hormone Repairs Muscles
In NREM sleep, the plasma growth hormone is at its highest level. These hormones enhance growth and assist your body with cell repair, cell reproduction, and regeneration.1 2 Any minor injury you’ve gone through or even just the wear and tear of the day will be slowly healed with the help of these hormones. So, if you don’t sleep at all, wake up constantly, or sleep less than what your body requires, you stall the tissue repair as your body doesn’t produce enough growth hormones.
2. Rise In Prolactin Reduces Inflammation
Your sleeping body releases more of another hormone – prolactin – which is an amazing anti-inflammatory agent. This, of course, makes your path to recovery easier and quicker.3
3. Energy Reserves Help In Muscle Recovery
When you sleep, your body and mind are completely at rest. This gives the part of the body that works all night access to all the energy reserves that you aren’t using. With this energy, your muscles and bones recover faster. It also enhances blood circulation to the muscles as the blood flowing toward the brain is reduced during sleep. This, too, contributes to cell repair.
How To Sleep Better For Muscle Growth
It goes without saying that the first step toward recovery is to know exactly what has gone wrong in your body. Depending on that, go for treatments and physiotherapy. And to complement these treatments, you need to sleep well. Here are a few measures you can take if you aren’t able to catch enough Zzzz every day.
- Sleep routine: Follow a fixed routine. Sleep at the same time every day and avoid doing anything that might excite or distract you before sleeping.
- Sleep duration: Try to sleep for at least 8 hours. Depending on the severity of the injury, you’ll need more sleep than usual as well. Take this opportunity to catch up on sleep.
- External noise: Listening to loud music or any kind of noise can disrupt your sleep pattern majorly. So, avoid loud noises, especially before sleeping. Take steps to ensure that nothing will disturb you once you sleep.
- Alcohol: Drinking even a little bit of alcohol can reduce your plasma growth hormone by up to 75 percent. Reduce or quit alcohol consumption.
- Coffee or caffeine products: Avoid products with caffeine as they can keep you awake and even result in muscle loss.
- Foods with tryptophan: Foods containing tryptophan help in melatonin production, which helps you sleep. Such foods include yogurt, oatmeal, grapefruit, bananas, dates, and figs.
- Fasting or dieting: Fasting causes reduced glycogen levels in the muscles. And low-carb, low-fat, or high-protein diets can severely affect your sleep pattern. Ensure you eat a healthy meal, in moderation, before sleeping.
As you age, you face more health issues and muscle/bone wear and tear because of less non-REM sleep. While age-related sleep and muscle issues are a different matter altogether, work on getting more and better-quality sleep when you can and keep your muscles strong and intact.
|↑1||Prinz, Patricia N., Elliot D. Weitzman, Glenn R. Cunningham, and Ismet Karacan. “Plasma Growth Hormone During Sleep in Young and Aged Men 1 2 3.” Journal of Gerontology 38, no. 5 (1983): 519-524.|
|↑2||Dattilo, Murilo, H. K. M. Antunes, A. Medeiros, M. Mônico Neto, H. S. Souza, S. Tufik, and M. T. De Mello. “Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis.” Medical hypotheses 77, no. 2 (2011): 220-222.|
|↑3||Sassin, J. F., A. G. Frantz, E. D. Weitzman, and S. Kapen. “Human Prolactin: 24-Hour Pattern with Increased Release doring Sleep.” Science 177, no. 4055 (1972): 1205-1207.|