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Lack of Sleep & Bodybuilding

author image Ryan Haas
Writing professionally since 2005, Ryan Haas specializes in sports, politics and music. His work has appeared in "The Journal-Standard," SKNVibes and trackalerts. Haas holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Illinois.
Lack of Sleep & Bodybuilding
A good night's rest boosts muscle-building potential. Photo Credit: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Successful bodybuilding requires a great deal more than spending countless hours at the gym. To gain lean muscle mass, you also need to have a healthy diet and ample rest for your muscles to recover and grow. Exactly how much sleep you need may vary for each person. But lacking in sleep will have a negative impact on your muscle growth and ability to put your best effort forth at the gym.

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Cortisol Production

Cortisol is a hormone in your body that your adrenal glands release when you undergo heavy training. According to the International Sports Science Association, cortisol functions as a counter to testosterone, human growth hormone and other muscle building hormones by breaking down your muscle tissue to release amino acids for energy. Washington State University advises that extended periods of insomnia can lead to consistently raised cortisol levels, which can greatly hamper your bodybuilding progress.

Glycogen Stores

Glycogen is the form of glucose that your body stores for your muscles to use as energy later. You can most readily gain glycogen for later use by eating carbohydrate rich foods. However, if you do not get a sufficient amount of sleep for your body, you may begin to slow down how well you store glycogen. This means that during your next workout, you may run out of fuel halfway through. Not only does this limit your capacity for an effective exercise routine, but it may also increase your body’s production of cortisol as it strains to find a replacement energy source.

Growth Hormone

Human growth hormone, or HGH, is one of the most essential hormones your body releases to aid in muscle recovery and growth. According to the “Gold’s Gym Mass Building Training and Nutrition System” book, the HGH levels in your blood are at their highest about two hours after you fall asleep. Having a sustained high level of HGH in your blood increases your muscles’ capacity to absorb amino acids from protein, which in turn facilitate more muscle growth. Therefore, missing out on your sleep could counteract the potential benefits of your strict bodybuilding diet.

Delta Wave Sleep

As you sleep, your body enters different stages of rest. The fourth stage of sleep is called delta wave sleep, and this is when your body produces the most muscle building hormones. Sports physiologist Dr. David Ryan recommends that you sleep for 4.5, 6, 7.5 or 9 hours every night. By sleeping one of these time amounts, you will maximize the number of times you enter delta wave sleep and you will wake up in a lighter stage of sleep so you feel rested in the morning.

If you plan your sleep incorrectly and wake up when you are in a deep stage of sleep, you will likely feel groggy in the morning. If you go to the gym in the morning before you start your daily routine, having a groggy feeling can lead to a poor performance with weightlifting. It may also cause you to have sloppy form during your exercises, which greatly increases your chance for an injury that can sideline your training routine entirely.

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