A day is made up of 24 hours. Even the most hardcore gym goer will spend a maximum of 2-3 hours in the gym a day, which leaves 21-22 hours of the day left. Therefore I ask, why do we therefore put so much effort into the 1-2 hours of training but go about the rest of our day in a half-assed manner neglecting to consider that it’s what we do outside of the gym that has the biggest impact on our progress and overall physique goals?
There is no optimum amount of sleep per person, and the amount of sleep one person gets per night may differ to another. If you get too little sleep one night, for whatever reason, then you will generally make up for that lost sleep by sleeping longer in the following nights and the amount of sleep you get month to month should average out to be roughly the same regardless of your sleep patterns on a day to day basis. Listen to your body, if you are struggling to stay awake in the evening, often waiting for a last meal or shake before bed then don’t! Get up and go to bed – the benefits of sleep will far outweigh the benefit of any meal!
Try and set regular sleeping patterns. Go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get up at the same time every day. This will allow your body to set its own clock and it will adapt to your sleeping patterns (ever woken up on a Saturday or Sunday at the time your alarm normally goes off for work? – this is because your body has been programmed to get up at a certain time every morning continuously).
Set up some bedtime routines. By doing the same thing every night you are telling your body that bedtime is coming and it should start preparing for a sleep cycle. (For example, have a protein shake at 9:30 and then read a book for 30 mins).
Avoid alcohol, especially after 6pm. Ever had a night out and wondered why you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed? When under the influence of alcohol your quality of sleep is crap.
We know sleep is important, but what about the science behind sleep? Lets have a look:
When we sleep, the EEG waves your brain produces are different from those made when we are awake. In a conscious awake state, our brain generates very small and fast waves or oscillations. When we sleep it generates much slower and bigger waves (dependent on where we are in our sleep cycle). The reason is that when we are awake, each nerve cell in your brain fires individually. When we sleep, more of the nerve cells start working together.
When asleep we alternate between two completely different types of sleep. One is the type during which you dream, and is called REM sleep (typically you will have rapid eye movement while you dream). The other type of sleep is non-REM sleep.
When we first fall asleep we go into non-REM sleep, and this has four stages:
Stage 1 (also known as light sleep)
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).
Pulse rate declines by approx 10 beats per minute.
Blood sugar and calcium levels rise
The body begins to detoxify itself excreting toxins from the cells.
You can be woken easily
Body Temperature declines
Muscles relax and your thoughts drift
Blood pressure starts to drop
Stage 2 (also known as medium sleep)
Brain waves slow to three to seven pulsations per second (theta waves)
Eyes may move slowly from side to side
Blood pressure, body temperature and pulse continue to decline
You can be woken easily
Stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep - most important for bodybuilders and athletes)
Long, slow brain waves of less than four cycles per second (delta waves).
Muscles are relaxed and breathing is even.
**IMPORTANT** 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 GH during your day.
Body recovery takes place and most of your blood is directed to the muscles. Due to the diminished flow of blood to the brain thinking is sparse and fragmented (although the brain is still capable of thought).
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 of sleep.
You are not easily awakened (hence this stage is called deep sleep).
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.
Brain waves quicken to the speed of 13 to 35 cycles per second.
Your heartbeat and blood pressure fluctuate, becoming irregular.
Breathing becomes faster.
Certain steroid levels increase to the highest of the day
More blood flows into the brain and less goes into the body
You are in a state of arousal and the adrenal glands pour larger amounts of hormones into the body
Your first nightly encounter with Stage 5 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 night. There is a gradual decrease in delta sleep (the deepest sleep) throughout life. Its been proven that a steady amount of exercise deepens sleep, so yet again another positive to keeping fit, hitting the gym and remaining active no matter w