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Everyone knows that getting a good night's sleep is an important part of staying healthy, but were you aware that it's just as important as eating right or working out? It's impossible to improve your health - or build up your muscles - if you're fighting a significant sleep deficit. Here's why.
What Happens When You Sleep
Scientists are still unraveling the process of sleep and it's not yet completely understood. The way your body repairs itself while you rest is one part of the process that's been studied carefully. When you sleep, your body progresses through several cycles, including medium, deep, and REM (or dream) sleep. For bodybuilders, the deep sleep cycle is particularly important.
When your body enters deep sleep also known as delta sleep, your pituitary gland releases growth hormones. Your entire body becomes focused on repairing damage and blood flow to your muscles is at its highest. Your kidneys are also busy doing the lion's share of their blood-filtering work during deep sleep. Deep sleep begins roughly an hour to an hour and a half after you fall asleep, and you can go through multiple deep sleep cycles in an evening.
Figuring Out How Much Sleep You Need
While conventional wisdom might tell you that eight hours of sleep is the right amount for an ordinary adult, the truth of the matter is that everyone's sleep needs are different. You might feel perfectly well rested after five hours or you might need up to 10 hours to feel ready to face the day. Rather than trying to "fight" your natural sleep impulses, it's more productive to fit your schedule - including your workout routines - to your instinctive sleep needs.
In order to find out exactly what your body needs in the way of sleep, you can conduct your own shoestring sleep study. Simply go to bed at the same time every evening without setting an alarm for the following morning. Make a note of when you naturally wake up and repeat this exercise for a week or two. It won't be too hard to see just how long your body wants to stay in bed.
Creating Ideal Sleeping Conditions
Once you know how much sleep you need, your next challenge is to make sure you get it. You want to subject your sleep habits to the same sort of discipline as your exercise routine. Speaking of your workouts, try not to schedule them too close to your chosen bedtime. Although exercise does make you tired, it also elevates your heart rate and body temperature.
If at all possible, give yourself some solid decompression time before you turn in for the evening. That means giving yourself at least a half an hour to recover from any workout. Many bodybuilders find it helpful to intentionally turn away from any screens (computers, TVs, phones, etc.) for a half an hour to an hour before bed. While this has a calming mental effect, it will also physically prepare you for healthy sleep by cutting your exposure to artificial light.
These little suggestions may help you understand your own sleep patterns better and to do a better job of fulfilling your body's need for rest. If you're still having difficulty getting the sleep you need, don't neglect this matter for too long! Getting your sleep sorted out is every bit as important to your health as hitting the gym and eating right.
Robert Grobe is the president of Healthy Living Products and has been helping people across the globe to enjoy improved health and a higher quality of life for more than 40 years. His blog at HealthyLivingProducts.com is filled with information about healthy living and its advantages.
For more great bodybuilding tips and information go to Beginner Bodybuilding Guide