Sleep: The Benefits
Sleep can be your muscles greatest training ally. True rest can be the most beneficial thing in a persons training regimen because the body actually builds muscle while you sleep. As the body falls deeper and deeper into sleep, passing from a state of beta rhythm (conscious alert state) through alpha and theta, to delta rhythm (deep sleep/ REM sleep state) the brain signals the paralysis of the skeletal muscles and the pituitary gland secrets the peptide hormone Somatotropin (Also known as growth hormone).
The Hormone Behind the Muscle Building
Somatotropin stimulates muscle growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration. Essentially, using this hormone, muscles broken down through training are rebuilt and improved. Somatotropin is found in its highest levels in the body during delta rhythm sleep. Therefore an athlete is not optimizing training/recovery without getting optimal sleep.
Lack Of Sleep: The Drawbacks
Sleep or lack there of can also be very detrimental to the body, without the signals from the brain to paralyze the muscles into a complete resting state, the body would continue to break down further due to the muscles reaction to the stimuli of the dreams experienced during sleep. This may occur due to noise pollution in an individual’s sleeping environment and or poor sleeping habits, which leads to the question ‘which is the best position in which to get a good, restful, muscle repairing nights sleep?’
The answer to that question may not be the most simple. Every sleeping position has its pros and cons.
Positions: Pros and Cons
For instance those who prefer to sleep on their Back benefit from the alignment of the spine and neck while at the same time they are putting pressure on the lordoses of the neck and lower back and the muscles that support them in addition, they are at a higher risk from respiratory restriction or sleep apnea. One solution to this problem is to discontinue the use of a traditional pillow; this forces the head to tilt back allowing the respiratory tract to remain fully open like in the use of CPR.
Areas under pressure and fixes:
Side sleepers can benefit from increased circulation to the heart by sleeping on the left side but at the same time they are putting pressure on the stomach and lung and lateral pressure on the lower back, cervical vertebrae and muscles of the neck, while most likely restricting blood flow to the arm on that side as well. Alternating the side (night to night) that one sleeps on is suggested in order to prevent putting too much strain on the muscles and organs of one side or the other for extended periods of time.
Areas of pressure and fixes:
Stomach sleeping, widely regarded as the worst position to sleep in can be beneficial in digestion (shown in some studies) and decrease the chances of sleep apnea, but the negative affects on the spine and muscles of the back (specifically lower back, this position usually causes the greatest strain in this area) and also the muscles of the neck do to the angle the neck is bent when using a pillow; seem to outweigh any possible benefits from this position.
Areas under pressure and possible fixes:
Block out that white noise, find a comfortable sleeping position that allows you a good night’s sleep, without putting too much strain on those tired muscles and sleep on the gains you’ve been training for.
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