Sleep Your Way to Better Recovery and More Gains by Josh Gangaware

Nothing ruins a great workout like poor recovery. After you finished crushing a workout, your body is greatly in need of repair. If you don't give your body what it needs to recover properly, your next 1, 2, or more workouts can be compromised. A single workout doesn't do you any good if you aren't able to follow it up with subsequent workouts.


The most important recovery tool is sleep. Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your recovery systems, primarily through hormonal pathways. Deep sleep has been shown to induce spikes in growth hormone (Gh). Gh is responsible for repairing and rebuilding muscle, as well as mobilizing free fatty acids to be used as fuel (induce fat loss). Without deep, restful sleep, your body doesn't produce nearly as much Gh. To compound this, lack of sleep is also connected to high levels of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol breaks down muscle and tells the body to not use fat as a fuel, hindering fat loss.


To go even deeper, studies have shown that a sleep deprivation of even two hours per night (equaling about 6 hours per night), reduces insulin sensitivity by 2025% after just a few weeks. Severe sleep restriction (4 hours) has the same effect on insulin sensitivity after a single night. This is important for a few reasons. First, insulin is the most anabolic hormone in your body, so a decrease in sensitivity would lead to far less muscle gain, compared to normal insulin levels. Second, insulin sends signals to fat tissues, telling them to be released to be used as fuel for the body. Again, a decrease in insulin sensitivity weakens this signal to great degree. So, as you deprive yourself of sleep (and decreasing insulin sensitivity) you are effectively depriving your muscle of a super anabolic hormone to grow and repair muscles, while simultaneously decreasing your ability to burn fat, creating a double edged sword effect that is bad news for your physique.


If you do have issues with your sleep, there are steps you can take to help improve your rest. The first area to address is your bedroom. Making the bedroom only for a place of sleep helps put your mind at ease when getting ready to fall asleep. Other activities, such as, work, television, or loud noises keep the brain active and inhibits sleep. Also, make sure that your room helps to induce sleepÍž a dark room helps quiet the mind, and keeping the room at a cool temperature helps relax the body.


There are also relaxation techniques that can be used to try to prepare your body to allow for an easy transfer into sleep. Techniques, such as, breathing slowly and deeply, concentrating on relaxing one muscle at a time, or mentally taking yourself to a quiet, restful, relaxing place can all help set the mind for sleeping.


If none of these strategies works to improve sleep, supplementing with GABA can help with sleep quality. GABA is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that is responsible for most suppressive and depressive actions by the brain, and is necessary for relaxation. When the body cannot naturally relax the brain, either because of GABA inhibition, or an excess amount of glutamate (the stimulatory neurotransmitter). Supplementation of GABA can balance out the interaction with glutamate to allow the body to relax.