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Why your strength training progress depends on sleep and recovery

Why your strength training progress depends on sleep and recovery

In order to gain muscle and strength, both athletes and fitness enthusiasts must follow a healthy diet and exercise regimen. The importance of rest and recovery, on the other hand, is a crucial aspect that is frequently neglected.

In this article, we're going to look at:

  • The relationship between sleep, muscle growth, and strength
  • The negative effects of sleep deprivation on strength training and muscle growth
  • Strategies for getting the most out of your sleep and recovery

The importance of sleep and recovery in building muscle and strength

Your muscle fibers are essentially being damaged while you work out. Sleep and recovery are essential because these fibers need time to repair. Your muscles can't heal without proper rest and recovery, so that you won't get the muscle growth and strength increases you want.

Your body heals the damaged muscle fibers during recovery, making them stronger and more resilient. Your body also creates new proteins to rebuild your muscles. Depending on how intense your workout is and how fit you are, the recovery period could be a few hours or many days.

The science of sleep and recovery

The stages of sleep and their functions

Sleep is a vital process that has a crucial impact on your overall health. Your body experiences various physiological and neurological changes while sleeping, aiding in rest and recovery.

NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep are two of the four stages of the sleep cycle. Each stage has a unique function and is essential to provide enough time for rest and recovery.

The first stage of sleep, known as NREM sleep, consists of three stages, each of which has unique properties and functions.

  • NREM Stage 1:

    This stage is a passageway between the awake and asleep states.

    It lasts for around five minutes and is characterized by a slowdown of mental activity and a calming of the muscles. You might suffer hypnic jerks or uncontrollable muscle cramps as you move from awake to asleep.

  • NREM Stage 2:

    Sleep spindles and K-complexes, which support memory consolidation, are features of this period.

    Whereas K-complexes are high-voltage spikes in brain activity that may assist in preventing sleepers from being awakened by external stimuli, sleep spindles are brief bursts of brain activity during Stage 2 sleep. They are believed to play a role in memory consolidation.

  • NREM Stage 3:

    Also called deep or slow-wave sleep, Stage 3 is the most vital stage of sleep.

    Its defining characteristics are slow, delta brainwave activity and increased blood flow to the muscles, which promotes recovery and regeneration.

  • REM Sleep:

    The last stage of sleep, known as REM sleep, is characterized by rapid eye movements, increased brain activity, and paralysis of the muscles.

    REM sleep, which makes up about 25% of the sleep cycle, typically starts 90 minutes after falling asleep. The brain is very active during REM sleep when dreams frequently happen. Memory consolidation and emotional processing both require REM sleep.

Understanding the different sleep phases and their functions can help you take priority and optimize your sleep routine.

Sleep's importance in recovery and growth

Sleep is an essential component in muscle recovery after your workout. Your body creates growth hormones during the deep stages of sleep, which is necessary for muscle growth and repair.

While you sleep, your body also goes through a process called protein synthesis, which rebuilds muscle fibers damaged during a workout. This is why getting enough sleep is crucial so your muscles can recover from workouts.

Obtaining enough sleep helps speed up the body's healing process and lower inflammation. It's crucial to remember that sleep quality is equally as significant as sleep quantity.

Sleep deprivation or interruptions can also make it harder for muscles to recover. So even if you're receiving the seven to nine hours of sleep per night that's advised, it's crucial to ensure you're getting uninterrupted, high-quality sleep.

In addition to growth hormone and protein synthesis, sleep also aids in lowering cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can hinder the growth and repair of muscle tissue.

It may be challenging for the body to develop new muscle tissue when cortisol levels are high because they can cause a muscular breakdown. The body can lower cortisol levels and establish the ideal conditions for muscle growth and repair by getting enough sleep.

The impact of sleep deprivation on strength training and muscle growth

Increased muscle soreness and inflammation

Increased muscle soreness and inflammation are two drawbacks of sleep deprivation on muscle growth and strength training. You create tiny tears in your muscle fibers when you engage in strength training exercises. When your body rebuilds the damaged muscle tissue to be stronger than before, these tears are crucial to building muscle.

Yet, if you don't get enough sleep, your body can't adequately recover from your workout, which causes increased soreness and inflammation. Lack of sleep has been found in studies to raise inflammatory markers in the body, which can result in prolonged muscle soreness and delayed recovery.

Researchers discovered that people who slept for only 4 hours each night had a 25% rise in inflammatory markers compared to those who slept for 8 hours each night. According to the researchers, the fact that the sleep-deprived subjects recovered from exercise at a slower rate suggests that sleep is crucial for muscle repair and recovery.

Reduced muscle growth and strength

While it is true that lack of sleep can cause soreness and inflammation in the muscles, it also harms strength and muscle growth.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep can hinder muscle protein synthesis, the body's natural mechanism for repairing and building muscle tissue. Lessening muscular growth and strength can negatively affect both athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Also, a lack of sleep can affect the body's testosterone levels, further hindering strength and muscle building. Testosterone is a hormone that is crucial for the growth and development of muscles.

Increased risk of injury and impaired performance

Sleep deprivation can harm athletic performance and raise the risk of injury. Lack of sleep can cause impairments in reaction time, balance, and accuracy, which might increase the risk of accidents or injury while performing physical activity. It can also decrease endurance and strength, reducing overall athletic performance.

According to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, athletes who slept for less than 6 hours each night had a higher risk of injury than those who slept for 9 hours or more. Another study indicated that lack of sleep decreased cognitive performance and increased feelings of exertion during training.

To boost athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury, aim for 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep each night and prioritize sleep as an essential part of your training regimen.

Sleep is critical to our ability to perform and compete at our best, both physically and mentally. It's just as important as nutrition and training in achieving optimal athletic performance.
Dr. Charles Samuels (Medical Director at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary, Canada)

How much sleep you need for optimal muscle growth and strength

The recommended amount of sleep depends on factors like age, gender, and individual needs.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, adults should aim for seven or more hours of sleep each night to maintain optimal health and well-being. However, some athletes may need up to 10 hours of sleep to support their training and recovery needs.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following age-specific sleep guidelines, which can be helpful:

  • Adults and young adults aged 18-64: 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Teenagers aged 14-17: 8-10 hours of sleep per night

It's important to remember that these suggestions are only guidelines and that each person's demands may differ depending on genetics, lifestyle, and health conditions.

Not simply the quantity but also the quality of sleep must be considered.

  • Aim for consistent sleeping habits.
  • Reduce distractions like light and noise.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment.

Getting adequate restful sleep is just as crucial as eating well and exercising regularly for optimum health and performance. So, prioritize sleep as a part of your fitness routine to achieve your goals.

Adequate sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity for optimal health and performance.
Dr. Charlene Gamaldo (Medical Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep)

Strategies for boosting sleep and recovery

Establishing a regular sleep routine is one of the most crucial actions you can take to enhance the quality of your sleep and promote muscle recovery.

Your body's internal clock can be regulated, and improved sleep quality can be achieved by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Strive for seven to nine hours each night, and maintain a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends.

In addition to establishing a regular sleep schedule, it's important to prioritize rest days in your training schedule. Give your muscles time to rest and repair after a workout for maximum muscle growth and injury prevention. If you are not getting enough sleep or taking enough rest days, you may experience decreased performance and an increased risk of injury.

Here are some tips for creating a regular sleep routine and giving rest days top priority:

  • Set a sleep goal of seven to nine hours each night.
  • Establish a calming nighttime ritual to assist your body in relaxing and preparing for sleep.
  • In the evening, avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can interfere with your sleep.
  • It has been demonstrated that supplements like melatonin, magnesium, and valerian root can lengthen and increase sleep quality.
  • Make sure your sleep area is cold, quiet, and dark.
  • In the hours before bed, avoid being around screens and bright lights.
  • Make sleep a priority in your daily schedule by establishing a regular bedtime and waking up time and adhering to it daily, especially on weekends.
All strategies at a glance
Tips for creating a consistent sleeping routineTips for putting rest days first
Establish a regular time for waking up and going to bed.Integrate rest days into your plan.
Get seven to nine hours (or more) of sleep per night.Pay attention to your body's signals and take more days off if necessary.
Set up a relaxing bedtime routine.Avoid doing intense exercise on consecutive days.
The evenings should be free of coffee and alcohol.During days off, engage in low-intensity activities.
Make sure your bedroom is cold, dark, and quiet.Engage in stress-relieving exercises like yoga or meditation.


Sleep plays a critical role in the recovery and performance of athletes and fitness enthusiasts. You may increase your muscle growth, strength, and general health by prioritizing sleep and creating a regular sleep routine.

For optimal muscle recovery and to lower the risk of injury, adequate sleep quantity, sleep quality, and rest days are crucial.

Following the tips outlined in this article, you can maximize your sleep and recovery to enhance your athletic performance and achieve your fitness goals. Remember that getting enough sleep is essential for reaching your best physical and mental performance.

Even though sleep is essential for your training success, your training and nutrition also play a significant role. With the Alpha Progression app, you set the ideal stimuli to build muscles and achieve your fitness goals.