Why Sleep Should Be Every Athletes No.1 Recovery Tool
Training and recovery are the most essential factors for anyone involved in sport, including bodybuilding, power lifting and overall strength training. Any form of resistance training contributes to the changing of the composition of your body. This includes the tearing of muscle fibres and following creation of additional muscle fibres, along with the burning of fat for example.
Because of this, any form of resistance training is stressful for the body – and when your body is stressed, it’s going to need to rest & recover! The obvious and required way to do this is to get a good nights sleep. The benefits of good quality sleeping for people involved in fitness regimes of any kind is, in general:
- Improved lean muscle mass
- Increased stamina and strength in the gym
- Improved muscle fibre recovery
In simple terms, its anabolic and it drastically improves your gains.
This is due to the well-documented benefits of good quality Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM), or Slow-Wave Sleep, that has been known for years – it keeps your bodies natural hormone cycle maintained and balanced. Your daily hormone cycle is normally referred to as your circadian rhythm, and up-keeping the regular functioning of this is essential for athletes wanting to get the absolute maximum out of their training. If your struggling to get to sleep at night or having restless sleep, chances are it could be due to your problems with your circadian rhythm.
Here are a few of the major hormones regulated during your day and what effect they have on your body:
- Cortisol: This is known as the ‘stress hormone’ due to it being released when your body or mind is put under stress. High levels of this hormone cause increased metabolism of muscle tissue and increases blood sugar levels. The levels of this hormone normally peaks in the morning , and its what wakes you up.
- Melatonin: This hormone signals your body to sleep, and normally spikes at night or in increased darkness. Things like blue light from screens at late hours can affect the release of this hormone.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Any athlete will have heard of HGH. This is an essential hormone for growth tissue and repair, there are numerous claims of different activities which can raise the bodies HGH production, but one definitive way to produce HGH naturally is through sleep! The highest levels are found in sleeping patients around 3 am, as your body takes time to properly repair the damaged tissues in the body.
- Insulin: Another important hormone is insulin, responsible for the production of vital metabolic enzymes that can assist in fat loss, while also assisting in the storage of nutrients in the body.
- Testosterone: Testosterone is an anabolic hormone as most athletes know, and contributes to strength and muscle repair. This hormone has a cycle just like your other hormones. Peak levels of this hormone are normally found in the morning.
The maintenance of a proper sleep/wake cycle regulates all these hormones and in turn your alertness and energy throughout the day, helping you maintain efficient and healthy metabolism, while reduces blood pressure and improving the overall health of the heart.
How Big A Problem Is This?
Now your average Joe is busy, we’ve all got stuff to do and getting a good 8 hours sleep can sometimes feel like an impossible task, and when you finally manage to get your head on the pillow early, your mind is running at 500 miles an hour and you’re struggling to switch off – everyone’s been there, and it shows in the research. A large proportion of adults report having problems with sleeping several nights a week.
While exercise is normally recommended to improve peoples ability to sleep, research has found that a study group of Olympic athletes can actually suffer from a poorer quality of sleep than an age and sex matched non-athletes, and if you’re wanting to take your training to the next level, disruptions like this could hinder your progress. Disturbed sleep can result in consistently high levels of cortisol, and the natural fluctuating rhythm of your body can be thrown off. This offset rhythm can slow recovery, and even cause catabolic effects in the body, potentially reducing muscle mass and hindering muscle regeneration and growth.
Reduced sleep has been found to be the strongest predictor of injury in young athletes – more so than hours of practise, and partial sleep deprivation was correlated with reduced strength in compound lifts such as bench press, leg press and dead lift. As a professional athlete or just a regular gym-goer, injuries are absolutely detrimental to your progress, and should be avoided at all costs! Because of this, maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is even more essential to anyone involved in sport or fitness, either casual or professional level.
Sleeping Pills or CBD?
It’s no wonder then that people suffering from dysfunctional sleep often turn to prescription sedatives, hypnotics, Over-The-Counter (OTC) sleep drugs or herbal sleep aids to combat poor sleep, however studies conducted in 2016 have shown that these methods can sometimes be more harm than good, with hypnotics actually showing increased mortality rates in users and in some cases actually hindered the quality of sleep and disrupting hormone levels further.
Fortunately, the endocannabinoid system within our own bodies has a widespread role in the body, and plays a distinct role in our bodies sleep / wake cycle. Because CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, supplementing with CBD can help your body relax and transition to the sleep phase of your daily cycle, while lowering your cortisol levels to reduce anxiety and increasing your melatonin release to help induce sleep.
CBD has been shown in published research and recent case reports to increase total sleep time and reduce insomnia effects produced by anxiety or PTSD while decreasing the frequency of arousal during the night. Unlike other prescription drugs or OTC sleep aids, CBD is generally well tolerated by the average person, and features a good safety profile with very low instances of side-effects according to the World Health Organisation.
According to feedback, we’ve heard how much our customers really love our products for the sleep assisting benefits. The ability to safely improve your sleeping pattern is essential for anyone seeking to reach the next level in their training and achieve the best results for either strength programs or hypertrophy.
Other lifestyle modifications you can incorporate into your life to help in improving sleep quality
Create a sleeping routine. This sounds like common-sense right? Making sure you get to bed early and get a good eight hours sleep, however if you’re particularly stressed and struggling to wind-down, try incorporating a relaxing bedtime routine to remind your body that its time to shut down. Things like drinking a warm beverage, doing some simple stretches or even running a bath to help warm your body up to a sleepy temperature.
Avoid over stimulating yourself with screens. We all love to have a browse down the old Instagram or Facebook feed while laid in bed, but this could actually be potentially be keeping your mind running at night for longer. Countless studies have reported that the bright blue light from your phone screen or TV keeps your brain activated, reducing the time your body spends in Slow-wave sleep, and overall reducing the quality of your sleep.
Aim to reduce stimulants intake in the afternoon or at night. This one is simple. Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco among other things can hinder your brains ability to ‘turn-off’. Athletes and gym-goers are notorious for taking high doses of caffeine, and it’s most likely in your favourite pre-workout! Ideally you want to avoid all stimulants before 2 pm – caffeine is able to stay active in your system for up to 8 hours, so consider investing in a caffeine-free pre-workout if you plan on working out later on in the day so you can still enjoy those crazy pumps and increased endurance without interfering with your body clock.
Use natural aromatherapy. We love CBD and the Hemp plant at Nordic Botanics, but nature provides many other sleep aids that research has proven can create a more relaxing environment. We’re big fans of lavender in our products, but you can also buy a inexpensive lavender room spray to help slow down in the evenings.
- Leger d, Poursain B, Neubauer D, Uchiyama M. An international survey of sleeping problems in the general population. Current Medical Research and Opinion 2007; 24(1): 307-17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1185/030079907X253771
- Leeder J, Glaister M, Pizzoferro K, Dawson J, Pedlar C. Sleep duration and quality in elite athletes measured using wristwatch actigraphy. Journal of sport science 2011; 30(6): 541-45. DOI: https://doi-org.proxy.library.lincoln.ac.uk/10.1080/02640414.2012.660188
- Milewski M, Skaggs D, Bishop G, Pace J, Ibrahim D, Wren T, Barzdukas A. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics 2014; 34(2): 129-33.
- Reilly T & Piercy M. The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics 2007; 37(1): 107-15. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00140139408963628
- Kripke DF. Hypnotic drug risks of mortality, infection, depression and cancer: but lack of benefit. F1000Research 2016; 5: 918-38. DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.8729.1
- Carlini E, Cunha J. Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol. Journal of clinical pharmacology 1981; 21: 417-27.
- Shannon S, Oplia-Lehman J. Effectiveness of cannabidiol oil for pediatric anxiety and insomnia as part of posttraumatic stress disorder: A case report. Perm J 2016;20(4):16-005. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-005
- Cannabidiol (CBD) Preview report. World Health Organisation. Geneva. 2017. https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf