The Importance of Sleep to Recovery

The Importance of Sleep to Recovery

Sleep is the single best way to recover from training. In fact, top athletes are infamous for sleeping 10 hours a day and routinely incorporate napping into their training routines. Since most of us can’t spend that much time in bed or even nap after training, it pays to know how much sleep you need to get each night. The ideal amount of sleep for a person depends upon several factors - their natural sleep needs and rhythms, their exercise-related fatigue level, and their life stress level. Most people do best with between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. The key is to get enough sleep to achieve 1.5 to 2 hours of “deep sleep.” Deep sleep is when the body releases the growth hormones that are key to recovery. You can estimate that deep sleep will be 20% of your natural sleep cycle.

The bad news is that we live in a sleep deprived world. So, how do you get that ideal amount of sleep? There is no magic solution that works for everyone, but here are a few well known sleep hygiene practices. Try to stick to a consistent bedtime and bedtime regime. Habit is critical for getting to sleep and staying asleep. Avoid caffeine after 5:00 PM. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. You may think alcohol helps you get to sleep, but too much impairs natural sleep cycles. Avoid screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime (60 minutes is ideal). The blue light emitted by cell phones, computers, tablets, and TVs inhibits the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin controls the circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycles. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Learn the optimum amount of sleep for you and set a nightly sleep goal. Shoot for that and you’ll be more likely to get the most out of your training. Studies show that well rested athletes recover faster and perform better.


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