The Importance of Sleep in Bodybuilding - How Much Sleep is Enough?

Sleep Importance in Bodybuilding

Many Factors Combined Play Critical Essential Roles for Muscle

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The "Colorado Experiment," one of the most phenomenal ever conducted, documents how Casey Viator (youngest Mr. America in history) gained 63 pounds of lean muscle mass in only 28 days under strict supervision and constant monitoring. Casey's incredible results had a lot to do with his muscle memory and the fact that he's one of the most genetically gifted bodybuilders of all time.

The purpose of the Colorado Experiment was to demonstrate that rapid and large-scale increases in both muscle mass and strength. could be accomplished by maximum stimulation during every workout, with not more than three workouts per week lasting less than an hour each.

Besides this ultra-high intensity training, there was no special diet involved, nor were growth-stimulating agents of any type used.

According to Casey a major factor in spectacular gains was the balance between grueling workouts and more than adequate sleep or rest needed for muscle recovery.

Bodybuilders spend countless hours in the gym training with fierce intensity and determination to achieve maximum gains. But even with proper nutrition and supplementation you only have part of the formula, and thus you can only attain a certain point of development.

Your hard training is what stimulates muscle growth, strength and size, and you must permit this growth to occur by getting the necessary amount of sleep required for your body to recover. This is the only way to achieve ultimate training gains. Remember, the two most important factors for the greatest and fastest possible gains in muscle mass and strength are maximum training intensity and adequate recovery through sleep and rest.

You spend about a third of your life in sleep (about 220,000 hours, or 25 years by the time you reach 70), yet scientists still don't know precisely the many things that sleep accomplishes. Sleep is interwoven with every facet of an athlete's daily life. It affects health and well-being, moods and behavior, energy and emotions, even one's sanity. All these factors comprise the heart of a champion.

We often think of sleep as a simple state of quiet and inactivity into which the brain passively sinks. But many complex activities occur in the brain and body during sleep. Sleep doesn't turn off the body's systems. In fact, some systems are more turned on during sleep than during wakefulness.

»f major importance to bodybuilders is the fact that the body is in an anabolic state when asleep. During this phase of metabolism, growth occurs, tissues rebuild, protein is assimilated and many important energy stores are replaced. This counteracts catabolism, the opposite phase of metabolism, in which the daily tearing-down process and expenditure of energy occurs. Sleep is what readies you physiologically and psychologically for your next productive workout. If you have ever experienced insomnia, you know the effect it has on training.


Every bodybuilder has a unique sleep/wake cycle that is one of many genetically determined biological processes, just like eye and hair color. This sleep/wake cycle is a circadian rhythm that fluctuates roughly on a 24-hour cycle and is governed by an internal body clock. Researchers have discovered a "rhythm gene" in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that contains the body's code for the necessary amount of sleep each individual requires, as well as sleep length, depth and structure.

»ur sleepiness or alertness is determined by the hormonal secretions that regulate body temperature. Most people normally become sleepy between 7 PM and midnight, a period during which body temperature falls rapidly, and are most alert about six hours after waking, when the body temperature is near its highest. When you go to bed during the downward curve of your body-temperature cycle (as most people do), you sleep until the next upward-temperature curve, an average of 7.8 hours.


When you're asleep, the kind of electroencephalograph (EEG) waves your brain produces differs from those made when you are awake. In a conscious state, the brain generates very small, fast waves or oscillations. When you sleep, it generates slower and bigger waves, depending on how you are sleeping. The reason is that when you're awake, each nerve cell in your brain fires individually. When you sleep, more of the nerve cells start working together.

You alternate between two completely different types of sleep. One is the type during which you dream, called REM sleep due to the characteristic rapid eye movements that occur while you dream. The other is non-REM or non-dreaming sleep.

Sleep begins with non-REM, which has four distinct stages or levels:

Stage 1 (light sleep)

» Muscles relax and your thoughts drift.
» Brain waves slow down from about average waking speed of 13 to 35 cycles (pulsations) per second (beta waves) to 8 to 12 cycles per second (alpha waves).
» Blood pressure drops.
» Pulse rate declines by about 10 beats per minute.
» Blood sugar and calcium levels rise.
» Temperature declines.
» The body begins to detoxif3รง excreting toxins from the cells. This process usually peaks near 4 AM.
» You can be awakened easily

Stage 2 (medium sleep)

» Brain waves slow to three to seven pulsations per second (theta waves).
» Blood pressure, body temperature and pulse continue to decline.
» Eyes may move slowly from side to side.
» You can still be awakened easily

Stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep - most important for bodybuilders)

» Long, slow brain waves of less than four cycles per second (delta waves).

» Muscles are relaxed and breathing is even.
» Growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland during deep sleep, which occurs 60 to 90 minutes after sleep begins. This is the largest spurt of OH during the entire 24 hours.
» Body recovery takes place and most of your blood is directed to the muscles. Although the brain is capable of thought during delta sleep, thinking during these stages is sparse and fragmented, due to the diminished flow of blood to the brain.
» Muscle growth occurs, tissues are repaired and the immune system is maintained.
» 90% of the kidney's function of waste- product removal is accomplished during this stage.
» You are not easily awakened.

Stages 3 and 4 of the non-REM period may last from only a few minutes up to about an hour, depending on age, with 25% of total sleep time occurring during young adulthood - more for children and less for older people. You may be described as "dead to the world" during stage 4.

Stage 5 (REM sleep, or dream sleep)

» Characterized by rapid eye movements.
» Dreaming occurs.
» Brain waves quicken to the speed of 13 to 35 cycles per second.
» Your heartbeat and blood pressure fluctuate, becoming irregular.
» Breathing becomes faster.
» You are in a state of arousal and the adrenal glands pour larger amounts of hormones into the body
» Certain steroid levels increase to the highest of the day
» More blood flows into the brain and less goes into the body

Your first nightly encounter with REM sleep lasts from five to ten minutes. This complete trip through the five sleep stages lasts about 90 minutes, and then stages two through five repeat themselves with variations in length from four to five times during the course of one and restful. There is a gradual decrease in delta (the deepest sleep) throughout life. A steady amount of exercise deepens sleep over the long run, so always keep active.


Evaluate your sleep needs to determine the necessary number of hours conducive to your training and feeling good. Keep a regular sleep schedule. This may be the single most important rule you can follow, especially when getting ready for competitions. Alterations in a sleep/wake pattern may affect the efficiency of your training performance, as well as your moods and behavior. The important thing is regular hours, not necessarily which hours they are.

Establish bedtime rituals. By following a routine every night you are doing an exercise in conditioning that sets up a mental pattern that suggests sleep. For some people, sex is a pre-sleep bedtime activity and for others, a hot bath helps induce sleep.

Exercise is one of the best methods to get your body and mind in shape for an efficient night's sleep, as long as you don't do it too late in the evening or too early in the morning. Better in the early morning than not at all, of course, but the most beneficial exercise in promoting deeper sleep should be done in the afternoon or early evening and just before supper.

Allow time to clear your mind and wind down. Don't tackle any problems or discuss controversial subjects. if you can't sleep, get out of bed. Sleep is one aspect of life in which trying harder doesn't help you succeed. Try reading or concentrate on something that doesn't involve much muscular movement. Focus your mind away from worrying about falling asleep, and it will occur naturally Get into bed only when you are sleepy.

Do not read, watch TV or eat in bed if you have sleep problems. This will help you associate the bed only with sleeping. Reduce caffeine products such as coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate products. Also avoid prescription and non prescription drugs for pain, weight-control, alertness, diuretics and cold/allergy remedies. Read the labels.

Avoid alcohol after 6 PM, and altogether if possible. Alcohol produces poor-quality sleep characterized by many awakenings, little or no delta sleep and decreased REM sleep. Eliminate cigarettes. Nicotine is a stimulant just like caffeine.

Do not use sleeping pills. They can distort sleep patterns, cause addictions, mask other problems and affect the day after. The effectiveness of most sleeping pills drops off after one to two weeks. They should be avoided whenever people are depressed, drink too much or have breathing problems.

Get up at the same time every morning regardless of how much or how little sleep you get during the night. Do not fall asleep with the light or radio on. Even though the noise or light may not awaken you, it can deprive you of needed deep steep for recovery, growth and strength.

Make your bedroom the best it can be for good sleep. This includes a comfortable mattress and pillow. For sounder sleep, keep out noises and light. Even if you think you can sleep through noise, you're wrong. Tests show that noises jar you out of your deep or REM sleep into stage one (light sleep) even if they don't waken you. if your clock bothers you, move it or turn it around so it can't be seen.

The temperature of your bedroom should not be too hot or too cold. Temperatures below 60 and above 75 degrees F were found to disturb sleep in most cases. Be sure the humidity is right for you. If you have allergies, get rid of dust or other pollutants.

When you sleep with someone, chances are that you will have less of the deep delta sleep needed for body recovery It takes at least ten minutes of undisturbed sleep before such delta sleep can occur, and if one partner moves during night's sleep. Deep sleep becomes briefer in the course of a night or may disappear, while REM sleep becomes progressively longer, marking the last stage of each cycle.

The total amount and quality of sleep you get is of major importance. Dream sleep is important in that it stimulates the desire to train hard, maintains psychological well-being, consolidates and sorts memory and helps brain development and learning.

Deep (delta) sleep stimulates growth, revitalizes and restores the body and brain, allows the body to fight infections and illness and maintains physiological well-being. Waste products are expelled and energy reserves are rebuilt during deep sleep.

In order to reach deep sleep and dream stage, your sleep must be continuous, not fragmented with awakenings. While this is crucial for good health and well-being, it is essential for maximal muscular growth and tissue repair.


Since every bodybuilder is different, each one may need differing amounts of sleep depending on age, lifestyle and ability to handle stress. There is no such thing as a "normal amount" of sleep, but whatever amount any one person needs is amazingly constant. Although you may sleep longer one night than another, the number of hours you sleep over a week or a month usually averages out very much the same.

Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is the usual quoted average, but it has nothing to do with what's good or bad. Research shows that a good night's sleep can range from three hours to more than 10. The quality of sleep makes quantity less important. In other words, it's not only how much you sleep but how well that determines your recovery rate, growth and how refreshed you feel the following day.

Many athletes reported sleeping fewer hours and still getting all the deep sleep they needed to restore their bodies. Since stage four (deep sleep for growth) is always bunched near the beginning of the night, a short deeper sleep should still get just as much deep sleep, depending on age.

You can discover your sleep need by keeping a "sleep diary". Go to sleep at the same time for a week and wake up without an alarm clock. Your body will show you the answer.

Though you require about the same amount of sleep at ail ages, as the body gets older, the pattern of sleep changes and the quality becomes less efficient those ten minutes and disturbs the other, the clock apparently is set back to zero and the ten minutes have to start over again. Separate beds may be of help if you sleep poorly.


Eating all your food in a single meal each day is not the best way to eat. Likewise, getting all your rest in a single time frame may not be the best way to sleep. If you have problems sleeping at night, naps may be the answer.

Napping can help maintain or restore performance, especially when sustained high levels of performance are required at a time when there is little or no opportunity for normal nocturnal sleep.

Naps as short as 10 minutes can have a restorative effect on performance. Naps of 60 to 90 minutes may have the optimum growth and recovery effect, although each nap may present its own individual differences in effect.

Naps should be taken before a large amount of sleep loss accumulates in order to prevent injury and deterioration in muscle size, strength and energy levels. Many bodybuilders feel naps are essential for optimum gains, but due to jobs and other responsibilities they're unable to take them.


To ensure sound sleep, eat a light dinner about four hours before bedtime. It should consist of a small amount of protein (to prevent nighttime hunger pangs), a high percentage of complex carbohydrates and low amounts of fat. Although a large late-evening meal can make you feel drowsy, it can also disrupt your sleep cycle by keeping your digestive system working overtime.

Avoid snacks that cause indigestion or heartburn, such as fatty foods, heavily garlic-flavored or highly spiced foods, if gas disturbs your sleep, avoid beans, cucumbers and other foods that contribute to this malodorous malady. Many people are sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can cause many symptoms including insomnia, if you notice that insomnia occurs on nights that you have eaten Chinese food, MSG may be the problem.

Bodybuilders and others who are dieting may sleep poorly and awaken frequently, especially in the second half of the night. A low-calorie carbohydrate snack before bed may solve the problem. Serotonin released in the brain by carbohydrates induces sleep. Normal sleep requires serotonin, and without this chemical sleep is curtailed.

Some vitamins and minerals that affect sleep include B-complex, C, D, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron.

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