Make Those ZZZs Count: How Sleep Promotes Recovery After Exercise

Sleep has long been touted as a great healer, and it’s especially good for recovering after exercise. Making sure that you give your body enough rest is the best gift you can give it—and your muscles will thank you too!

We all know that sleep is good for our skin and health, but did you know that one of the most important elements of any workout routine is a good night’s sleep? Without the right amount of rest, you’ll never reach your peak physically. Sleep is the essential ingredient that’s too often forgotten when we want to push ourselves harder and faster.

Why Exercise Needs Rest

Rest is the time for recovery. The harder you push in a workout, the more rest you need. Inversely, the better rest you get, the harder you can push yourself in your next workout. Like so many things in life, it comes down to balance.

There’s a good reason why you need to rest after exercising. When you work out, you often stress your muscles to the point of tearing. This isn’t a bad thing, as it’s what causes muscle growth. However, your muscles also need time off to heal and grow bigger. They can only do this when you’re in recovery mode.

More Growth Hormone

The only time your body creates more growth hormones is when you’re asleep. If you don’t get sufficient sleep, the muscles don’t have time to repair—never mind grow bigger and stronger. This is why sleeping well the night after an intense workout is so important.

It can be tempting to keep pushing, but you simply won’t see positive results if you push too hard. It’ll get harder and harder to see the benefits of a workout if you don’t let your body sleep and the growth hormones do their job.

Impact Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation, in the purest sense of the term, is not something that most people ever experience. The definition is going 30 hours or more without any sleep at all. However, a lack of sleep—not getting proper recuperative rest in a 24-hour period—can seriously impact your body’s ability to perform.

Lack of decent sleep in just one day can decrease your cardiovascular performance, especially when it comes to endurance. It will also decrease your hand-eye coordination, making it harder to perform specific tasks when working out. You may find that you can’t lift weights as easily or do as many reps as usual.

Recuperation For Your Central Nervous System

Your body, especially your central nervous system and brain, is like a battery, and it needs to be recharged. The central nervous system is responsible for the sluggish behaviour exhibited when you lack sleep. It can’t react as quickly as it can when your body is well-rested, nor can it interpret pain properly, causing you to find weights heavier and harder to use.

Your central nervous system also stimulates your endocrine system while you’re at rest, allowing your hormones to balance correctly. When you don’t sleep enough, your body won’t produce enough testosterone, producing too much cortisol. This puts your body in a heightened state that’s bad to maintain for an extended period. It also means that you can’t produce more muscle.

How To Get Good-Quality Sleep

Getting enough rest is a personal thing for your individual needs and the amount of strain you put on your body. The key is to get to know your body and understand exactly what you need to get a good night’s sleep.

Understand The Signs Of Fatigue

In order to know if your body is suffering from over-exertion, you need to be aware of the signs of fatigue. It’s easy to spot if you’re self-aware. Look for signs like slightly losing your balance or your limbs feeling heavy when you move them. When running or jumping, you may find that you’re hitting the ground harder with your feet each time.

If you’re feeling any signs like this, it’s best to stop your workout and try something gentler or go home and rest. Your body is too tired to get what it needs from an intense workout and will be better served by a rest day.

Just remember, there’s a significant difference between pushing your body outside of its comfort zone so that you grow compared to pushing yourself past your breaking point and potentially injuring yourself.

Don’t Just Aim For 8 Hours

The general rule of thumb is to get eight hours of sleep a night. Most people interpret this as going to bed in time to be in bed for eight hours before their alarm goes off in the morning. This doesn’t take into account how long it takes for you to fall asleep, the specific needs of your body or how your sleep patterns change over time. It all comes down to how well you sleep and the environment you place yourself in before you go to sleep.

Create Rituals That Work For You

To get good-quality sleep, you need to have proper sleeping rituals in place. This includes creating a restful environment in your bedroom without electronic distractions. It’s important to work out when you need to start switching off your devices so that your brain can start to relax for sleep. What you eat and drink just before bed is another major consideration. Spicy, processed and fatty foods should be avoided at night.

Be Careful About Exercise Before Bed

Many people think that an intense workout just before bedtime will be an excellent way to tire themselves out and allow them to sleep well.

The opposite is true.

Intense exercise, like running or high-intensity weight training, releases endorphins and other hormones that wake up the brain and make you feel more alert. It'll be much harder to fall asleep with all of the adrenalin surging through your body.

It’s much better to do gentle exercise in the evenings if you want to work out after 5 pm. This includes going for a walk, doing yoga or Pilates, swimming or a gentle cycle. These exercises all fall into the category of active recovery and allow your body to rejuvenate.

The answer is simple. If you want to feel good and give your body the boost it needs for your next workout, you need the power of sleep.

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Today's blog post comes from Sara Terrell, a contributing writer and a fitness enthusiast. She's passionate about sharing her experience on health and wellness through writing

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