Sleep is an important and big part of everyone’s life. Even if you do not always realize it. The average person spends about one third of their life in bed sleeping. That’s a long time and should show just how important it is to sleep.
That being said can your muscles recover without sleep? No, your muscles or even your brain cannot recover or function without sleep.
Don’t get me wrong you may get away with it for a day or night or maybe even a couple of nights if you do everything else right but the recovery would be very minimal if any, again depending on how you approach the gym and everything else each day.
Sleeping is one of the best things for people and essential for your body and brain to operate every day. Not only will your muscles not recover from exercise without sleep but much worse things can happen to your brain depending on how long you stay awake without sleep.
Though just because you are getting some sleep does not mean you are getting the most benefit and muscle recovery from your rest after each workout.
Yes any amount of sleep is better than no sleep and your brain may be spared but the proper amount of sleep is required each day for a healthy life and muscle recovery at its full potential which is what you want after a workout and every workout.
Why Is Sleep So Important For Muscle Recovery?
Sleeping is so important for muscle recovery because it does not only help muscles recover to grow after exercise but without proper sleep muscles can actually start to do the exact opposite and start to atrophy or in simple terms they can shrink away.
This is due mostly to over training or as I more fittingly call it under recovering.
You are beating your body up and tearing you muscles apart without giving them the proper things necessary for them to fully recover and if you continue training while your muscles are not recovered they will never have a chance to progress and get bigger and stronger than they were.
They will more likely shrink instead of increasing growth level since you are breaking down muscle at a greater rate than you are building it up, there is a loss.
Even if the rate of muscle recovery is not much less than that of muscle growth small losses do add up to large ones with time. Most people forget that our muscles do not actually grow during training.
Training only damages the muscles to create a response causing them to grow during rest and you can’t be more at rest then when you are asleep.
Likewise your muscles can’t recover any faster than when you’re asleep. Sleep is undoubtedly one of the necessary ingredients for muscle recovery and just like cooking or anything else if you do not have the necessary ingredients for something it will just not workout.
What Happens To Your Body And Muscles While You Sleep?
While you are sleeping one of the biggest things that happens to promote muscle recovery is the excess release of a hormone known as human growth hormone typically known as HGH.
Our body needs HGH in order to utilize what we eat in this case the protein we eat in order to rebuild the muscles in our body that have been previously broken down due to training.
Because of chemical reactions in the brain HGH is most present in the body during sleep when easily over 70 percent of its total quantity occurs.
If you are not sleeping your body is getting a pathetic amount of HGH in comparison to what you could have and likewise your body is using a fraction of the protein you consume to assist in muscle repair.
But that’s not where it ends. In addition to having this massively increased amount of HGH in the body specifically the bloodstream during sleep something else that happens as well is that blood flow to your muscles increase.
So summed up during sleep the key component required for your muscles to rebuild is drastically increased and the transportation of that key component is increased as well which is as good as it sounds in terms of muscle recovery.
How Does Sleep Affect Performance?
Sleep also plays a massive role in terms of performance while training. How does sleep affect performance? Well a lack of sleep will result in a lack of muscle power brain power and a lack of performance to say the least.
One thing to be mentioned here is the low energy levels experienced from a low amount of or no sleep. A poor amount of sleep will lead to a poor amount of energy and a poor amount of energy leads to a poor performance during any kind of training.
You might ask how will a poor performance affect my muscles recovering, well the thing is if you have a poor performance you may affect your muscle recovery by stopping it from happening in the first place.
If you do not have the energy to train effectively you may just be wasting your time as if no muscle damage takes place your muscles will not recover because there will be nothing to recover from.
You might feel that as long as you have the energy to do something you are able to work your muscles and they will need to recover and get bigger, even then it’s not just about causing muscle damage.
If you do not cause enough muscle damage because you don’t have the energy too or for any other reason your body will not adapt and get bigger or better after recovery.
So, having none of or a lack of sleep is a double edged sword in this way, you will not only not be able to recover efficiently enough but you will also not be able to train efficiently enough both of which are two key ingredients of muscle growth.
How Much Sleep For Muscle Recovery?
How much sleep you should get every night (or day) has always been a heavily talked about and debated subject. So how much sleep should you get for muscle recovery? At least 5 hours and at most 11.5 or 12 hours to round it up.
It has been determined that the initial release of HGH during sleep happens about an hour to an hour and a half after you first fall asleep. This is because your body has entered something called rem sleep which is the best quality of sleep one can fall into for both brain and body.
The increase in blood flow occurs just before entering rem sleep still around the same time.
The thing is that this does not only happen once and that’s it. Your body cycles through stages of rem sleep while you are in bed asleep releasing more HGH and all that good stuff through every stage of rem sleep until you wake.
Most people need to go through either four or five of these sleep stages or cycles in order to receive near maximal benefit from their night time sleep session.
Perfect so just take the length of one sleep cycle and multiply that by four and five and this is the range of quality sleep one should get each night right?
Unfortunately it is not that simple. The complicated part is that the lengths of these sleep cycles can vastly change typically increasing.
On average one of these cycles is usually an hour and a half but this can easily vary and one of these cycles can be as short as just under an hour to as much as two hours.
Having this information instead of taking the length of the average cycle since the length can differ so much I believe looking at the least amount of sleep possible and the most possible to achieve near full benefit would be a more effective approach.
Taking the lower end of the length of a sleep cycle around 1 hour and multiplying it by the lower end of the recommended number of cycles 4 we would get 4 hours of sleep a night but we can not forget the time it takes us to enter the first stage when we initially fall asleep which is on the lower end about 1 hour so we get a minimum of 5 hours asleep in bed.
We can do the same for the higher end . Initially entering the first cycle after 1.5 hours spending as much as 2 hours in each cycle and sleeping through 5 cycles, we get a total of 11.5 hours in bed each night (2X5+1.5).
Taking this information our body regularly needs at least 5 hours and most 11.5 hours of sleep to experience the full if not near full benefit.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the consideration of training. The harder you work your body the longer you will need to recover so this is the biggest factor in determining how long you as someone who trains needs to sleep.
Something that can be said foresee is since you are putting in some kind of work your sleep cycles will definitely last longer then the minimum length so you will definitely need more than 5 hours of sleep.
But not only will your cycles be longer than the minimum length if you are training hard enough so that your muscles will recover better then before you are unquestionably looking at the higher end of sleeping.
Taking this into account now is the time to look at the middle ground when it comes to the minimum (5 hours) and maximum (11.5) sleep. The in between in this case would be 8.25 hours or 8 hours and fifteen minutes.
Assuming your training would require you to need the higher end of sleep for maximal benefit you should get more than eight hours and fifteen minutes of sleep while your muscles are recovering.