The field of bodybuilding demands constant attention and is constantly evolving. Because of this, we are always putting our focus in the wrong areas.
Often times, we look at the new products on the market like protein powder, multivitamins, or supplements- when we need to be focusing on the basics!
Sleep is the foundation of bodybuilding! Without sleep, you will not grow any muscle period.
So, how many hours of sleep do bodybuilders need? Well, honestly, as much as you realistically can. 8 hours of sleep is ideal for the bodybuilder, and even up to 10 hours is good. But, you should never be getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night, your muscle growth will slow dramatically. Always listen to your body- if you’re really tired, sleep!
First and foremost, it is important to understand the benefits of sleep. If you know why it is important for you and how it impacts your performance, you are more likely to keep at it.
Here we take a look at the benefits of sleep in a bodybuilding context- and why you need to be sleeping more!
Sleep Rests and Recharges The Brain
Sleep is the number one factor that affects your overall mental health. Sleep is responsible for the proper functioning of various mental processes.
Our thought processes are directly influenced by a lack of sleep. Inadequate amounts of sleep impairs the memory and leads to forgetfulness. Short-term memory seems to be the most deeply affected area.
Lack of sleep also makes it harder for our brain to learn new things. Depressed moods and lack of awareness are also commonly seen. One of the biggest dangers of inadequate sleep is slowed-down reaction times.
Studies have shown that brain activity is reduced during sleep. This suggests that the brain actively recovers its mental energies during sleep. Adenosine is an important chemical in the body that serves as a signaling agent for neurons.
Decreased levels of adenosine suggest that the brain is taking rest as we sleep. From a bodybuilding perspective, good mental health is of paramount importance.
Tissue Repair During Sleep
Sleep brings about the needed physiological changes to help the body heal and repair the tissues. This is incredibly important for bodybuilders. As you work out, the muscles and tissues undergo microdamage. These are like small damages that take place in the muscle fibers.
During the sleeping process, the immune system makes use of resources in the body and starts repairing the micro damages. Protein synthesis is an important biochemical process in the body by which the body produces much-needed proteins.
The microdamage repair and the protein synthesis together make sleep a quintessential state for tissue repair and muscle buildup in the body.
How Lack of Sleep Affects Muscle Growth
We’ve looked at the direct benefits that sleep has on bodybuilding. Next, we will look at how sleep affects muscle growth. There are two major ways in which sleep impacts muscle growth in our bodies.
Our muscles need energy to do work. When glucose reacts with oxygen, energy is produced. We obtain this glucose from the food that we eat.
However, the body does not store the glucose as it is in the body. Instead, it is stored in the form of glycogen. Our liver plays a major role in glucose storage. A part of this glycogen is also stored in the muscles.
Muscle glycogen is the body’s first and major resource for energy. The glycogen is converted back into glucose and broken down to release energy.
The main point to note here is that muscle glycogen is highest during – you guessed it – our sleep. This means that sleep is the best time for our muscles to generate energy. This energy can then be used for muscle growth.
The Human Growth Hormone
The human growth hormone medically abbreviated as HGH is the main developmental hormone in humans. It is responsible for all kinds of growth in the body including but not limited to – cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and tissue repair.
It is also noteworthy that in a healthy body, levels of human growth hormone are the highest during sleep.
This tells us that it is during sleep that the body utilizes most of the secreted growth hormone and uses it for cell and tissue build-up.
This leads us to conclude that not getting enough sleep is not only responsible for low levels of growth hormone on a daily basis, but also low levels of growth hormone production in the body as a whole.
How Much Sleep Do Bodybuilders Need?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is a professional body that is dedicated to sleep medicine. In fact, it is the only professional society in the United States to be solely dedicated to sleep medicine and circadian rhythms.
According to the AASM, healthy individuals should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This of course varies individually. If you are looking for a specific number, 8 hours of sleep each night is a good goal to try and reach.
It gives ample time for the body to fully rest physically and mentally and enough time for the physiological and biological processes to take place. If you are looking for guiding rules, keep the following in mind:
- The more physically active you are the more sleep you need. This means that for active bodybuilders, they should be going for the higher end of 9 hours or even higher per night of sleep.
- As we’ve discussed before, muscle growth is accelerated and is much faster during sleep. Therefore try and get as much sleep as possible.
Do Naps Play An Important Role?
Naps, whether during the day or the evening time, provide a huge boost to mental health and the biochemical processes in the body. In many cases, especially if you work and bodybuild alongside, the extra stress makes it impossible to stay without naps.
Naps are not bad. They provide a good boost to the physiological processes in the body. When it comes to naps we should keep the following two points in mind:
- Naps, although beneficial,should not be treated as a substitute to night’s sleep. A proper night’s sleep can not be replaced by daytime naps here and there.
- Naps, if overdone, can disturb your sleep schedule. People often sleep late because they took a nap in the evening. Avoid taking naps in the evening time and try to keep the daytime naps to a minimum.
Rich Piana Always Said To Sleep and Eat As MUCH As Possible
Rich Piana, one of the world’s most famous bodybuilders ALWAYS told his fans to eat and sleep as much as possible!
The more sleep and food you eat, the more muscle you will put on.
Here’s the sad thing: If you end up NOT eating or sleeping enough, you will actually end up NOT growing any muscle. Here’s the thing, if your body does not have enough food or sleep to build that muscle, it just won’t. Our bodies don’t ‘half build it’- it just refuses to build it.
It’s why people (like me) who went to the gym for 4 months straight and literally LOST muscle. When our bodies don’t have the resources, it just doesn’t build a THING.
But, the more time you spend sleeping, the more muscle growth you’ll get. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may lose ALL the potential muscle growth.
That’s why Rich Piana always told his fans that 8 hours of sleep just wasn’t enough, and that if they could sleep 10 hours, they needed to.
It’s my favorite Rich Piana quote! “The more you eat, the more you sleep, the more you put into anything- the more you will get out of anything”. He’s saying that when you finally own up and start eating more, sleeping more, etc- YOU START SEEING MORE RESULTS, PERIOD.
Improving Sleep Quality For Faster Muscle Growth
Having a nightly sleep goal is beneficial. You can decide to sleep x hours (we recommend at least 8) each night and try to reach the goal with determination.
Eventually, the body will adjust to your new habits and will start demanding the same amount of sleep each night. Let us discuss some ways of improving sleep quality for faster muscle growth.
Consistent Sleeping Schedule
This is the first and most important change to make if you do not already follow a set schedule for sleeping and waking up. Our bodies are more discipline-loving than our minds.
The body demands sleep at regular intervals. If you keep changing the sleeping times often, the body is never able to settle down at a regular interval and this causes all sorts of stress both physically, chemically, and neurologically.
Many people sleep late thinking they will still achieve their sleep target and wake up late. This in fact makes the situation worse as your body has to constantly keep adjusting its inner body clock. That’s right. The body has an inner ‘clock’ built in known as the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm works the best when it gets the following two things:
- Regular sleep and wake up timings
- Sleeping during the night and waking up in the morning
Consider Buying A New Mattress
In many cases, a faulty mattress is a culprit. Getting a new mattress might be the easiest way you can try and improve your sleep quality. There are many varieties of mattresses available in the market.
Personally, my sleep life changed when I went from a normal mattress to a memory foam mattress. I got one of those ‘cheaper’ models on Amazon that comes in a box and expands on opening and it was a game-changer. I never have had such good sleep in my life!
Each with their own pros and cons. Go for one that works best for your body shape and type. Avoid getting a new mattress if your existing mattress is already comfortable enough.
This is not as bad as it sounds. You do not have to completely boycott caffeine from your day.
However, caffeine does not go well with sleep.
It is much better to substitute caffeinated intake with other items. The best approach is to shun all caffeine about six hours before bed. This gives your body enough time to get rid of any caffeine that is already in your system.
Form a Sleep Routine
If you are just starting out on your sleeping journey or have been facing issues with falling asleep or staying disciplined about your sleep, forming a sleep routine is a great way to establish it.
A sleep routine is composed of various cues from the environment that lead your brain to think that it’s time for bed. We have the following tips in this regard:
- Use the bedroom exclusively for sleeping. This means no TV or food on the bed. This helps your brain associate bed with one sole activity – sleeping.
- Avoid using any electronic items or gadgets, especially avoid facing screens at least half an hour before bed. Blue light filters are also a good option if you are forced to check your phone around bedtime for some reason.
- Have a light activity to do while on the bed. Reading a few pages from a book is the most common such activity.
In today’s busy and fast world, it is easy to forget the importance of sleep. The condition has worsened so much in the last decade that doctors have had to prescribe sleep to their patients!
No wonder we are going through a sleep deprivation pandemic worldwide. A night of proper sleep is extremely important for bodybuilders.
The extra physical work and muscle growth requires that the body take proper rest. Remember that sleeping less, equals gaining less.
Famous bodybuilders like Rich Piana advocated for bodybuilders to sleep nearly 10 hours a day! The literal Academy of Sleep Medicine advocates for you to sleep 8 hours a day minimum! It’s no secret guys, all of us need to be sleeping more to see that muscle growth.
And honestly, it’s not even just that muscle growth- it’s our mental and physical health.
Remember, if you don’t sleep enough, you’ll lose a ton of muscle growth. It’s the law of minimums for the body, so don’t waste your time spinning wheels in the gym, get some well-deserved sleep.