We are constantly told about the importance of sleep, how it effects mood, concentration, and generally how we operate day to day, but can lack of sleep actually make you gain weight, and impact muscle growth?
Sleep is essential when we are talking about muscle growth, as sleep is when the body recovers, repairs, and recharges after all the physical impact it has been through, but it is also recovery for our mental state, helping people concentrate and be productive throughout the day.
How does better sleep translate to a stronger, more resilient body and mind?
Sleep actually increases anabolic hormones within our body, such as testosterone, and IGF-1 which both contribute hugely to muscle recovery and muscle growth. When you limit sleep, you limit the production of anabolic hormones in your body, leading to lesser results.
Performance definitely suffers if we do not get sufficient sleep when training consistently, as the body is dealing with a lot of stress, fatigue, and high levels of physical effort. The most basic gym, lifting and strength routines often rely on improving the weight you can lift, how fast you can run, or how many repetitions you can perform, and this all relies on progressive overload (for example; adding a small amount of weight to a bench press or being able to do one more push up than the last time), making you stronger, faster, and fitter gradually over time. Two massive factors that affect progressive overload consistently are diet, making sure the body is fueled correctly to improve, and the other? Sleep. Without sufficient rest and sleep, the body and mind will not be readily prepared, limiting strength, endurance, and focus throughout a workout, often increasing injury risk and the ability to stick to a plan.
How sleep can affect your diet and hormone levels
As mentioned above, diet is a huge factor when trying to progress, as a well fueled, well- nourished body will accomplish much more than one that has inferior nutrition.
Two hormones that affect appetite are leptin and ghrelin, leptin tells you when you are full, preventing hunger, and ghrelin makes you hungry and increases appetite. Lack of sleep lowers leptin levels, and increases ghrelin levels, which makes you hungrier and have more cravings after insufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep can make a diet much harder to stick to, and really take away from physical results that are already difficult to achieve.
Within the body, cortisol is also an important hormone that breaks down muscle tissue and can restrict how much protein the body can absorb and use; on top of that, it also increases stress levels. When the body doesn’t get enough sleep, cortisol increases, which is clearly bad news for any athlete or health minded individual.
Testosterone, a well known important asset for muscle growth and sexual health also decreases with poor sleep as many studies have shown. Low testosterone has been shown to limit ability to build muscle and general recovery rate, along with lower libido. Testosterone contributes to fat breakdown within the body, less of this hormone can increase the amount of stubborn body fat that remains over time, and decrease muscle gain.
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Ultimately sleep is very important, crucial in fact. Testosterone levels, recovery, strength, body fat, mental ability, appetite, and drive are all affected by how much sleep a person gets, and all of this contributes to a better, healthier, stronger body and mind.