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Science of Sleep for Athletes: Building Muscles the Right Way

Author: Gud Sleepz Team

Science of Sleep for Athletes: Building Muscles the Right Way

Science of Sleep for Athletes: Building Muscles the Right Way

Tired minds don't plan well. Sleep first, plan later” - Walter Reisch

Most of us are pro-fitness but the core aspect of our health isn’t just about being fit, rather it’s the amalgamation of exercise, diet and sleep which makes one healthy and prolongs our lifespan. Do you know the basic makeup of sleep has muscle building and recovery properties? Let’s understand the science behind muscle and sleep for athletes. Because who else is a better example than athletes who exert their body and at the same time depend on their body for their success in their career. 

Building muscle is one of the most important factors for gaining strength and increasing endurance. Strength training is one way of building muscle and while most athletes depend on a combination of workouts such as cardio, strength training and crossfit etc. While we do not think a lot about the science behind muscle building, it’s vital for anyone working day in and out building their strength and stamina. Athletes cannot afford to risk any lag or mishaps in their training and due to which they work in a way that benefits both their body and their training goal. 

Sleep has a direct effect on insulin, which in turn helps in protein synthesis and retention for muscle development. Insulin is the ultimate body recovery mediator which is aided by sleep. In addition, the release of growth hormone also occurs during sleep which is instrumental for muscle repair. This shows how muscle development and repair doesn’t necessarily occur in the gym but the process of the whole cycle of muscle development ends after your un-disturbed sleep. 

Another question arose on how much sleep is required for a complete muscle recovery and repair? The answer lies in your lifestyle and other factors. If you are an athlete and spend your whole day training, you might need more hours recovering compared to someone who trains 2 hours a day. But an average of 7-9 is ideal for any training athletes to build muscle and decrease inflammation. 

Role of Sleep in Muscle Rejuvenation 

  • Physiological Growth and Repair: During stage 3 and 4 of your sleep cycle, your body attains the maximum amount of revitalization where your metabolic activity slows down and growth hormone levels peak. N-REM is the period at which your muscles grow and repair. This is why athletes are encouraged to sleep during the day if the athlete loses a slow-wave sleep at night to stimulate their growth hormones for muscle recovery and building. Sleep deprivation is a stressor for muscle. 

  • Neuromuscular Performance: Learning and muscle performance has a way of connecting during the resting period. During sleep, your muscle training consolidates and better neuromuscular coordination occurs. Lack of sleep hinders training the next day which is why it’s critical to sleep after a new training session as it strengthens the muscle memory. They say, ‘practice with sleep makes it perfect, not practise alone’. 

  • Cognitive Functioning and Sleep: The relationship between sleep and cognitive performance is well established. The better sleep at night provides increased concentration, memory, problem solving skills, decision making skills, improved judgement, learning and speed of reaction time. These skills are vital for better athletic performance. 

  • Emotional Well-being: A good mood is essential for anyone who is focused on achieving their dreams. Most often being optimistic and emotionally calm is essential for optimum performance. Any arousal beyond normal leads to poor outcomes. Sleep deprivation is studied to be related to decreased well-being, frustration, confusion, tension, anxiety and irritability etc. These can have a compounding impact on an individual’s performance. 

  • Immune System: The relationship between sleep and immune system is well-understood. Increased sleep deprivation leads to compromised immune systems and increased muscle injury and inflammation. The release of growth hormone and melatonin during sleep has a profound effect on improving immune system function which otherwise would be compromised. 

  • Hope this article was helpful and informative. For more information, do check out our page  

    Please Book a Session with sleep coach to know more about your sleep.


    Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine, 44(Suppl 1), 13-23.

    Venter, R. E. (2012). Role of sleep in performance and recovery of athletes: a review article. South African Journal for Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, 34(1), 167-184.

    Tags: Athletes , sleep

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