The Glorious Guide to Sleep!
Greetings True Friends! In the following article I will expand my views on one of the three branches of the Aesthetical Tree of Gains. As usual I will use both bro-science, or the more fancy term: empirical evidence n=1 (myself being the subject), along with regular science.
General information regarding sleep!
I will first post this quite illustrative picture. It describes the situation for the general population (it is however based on Americans, so it might not translate to your country perfectly but it gives a good insight as of how it looks generally). Below I will be more specific as to how and why sleep is important in our muscle building endeavours.
How much sleep do we require?
The “we” in the title above is of course aimed at the true friends who strive to build muscle and burn fat! Adequate sleep is more important to us than to the ordinary people who haven’t yet found bliss in the iron. First of all the body needs time to repair the broken down muscles it has used during the day. This is a process which applies to all animals, if you have been been hitting the gym hard during the day the need for the body to repair and supercompensate is all the greater. This might all seem very obvious and I am quite certain no one in this fitness world of ours want to downplay the role of sleep. I still feel that I must emphasize it’s importance, hence I am writing this text! The concrete answer to the title is “so much you can”, I try to aim for about 9 hours (it is obviously not always doable but 7-8 hours certainly is).
Sleeping when bulking or in general
Sleeping whilst trying to put on as much mass as possible is very important. You have (hopefully) given your body the incentives to build muscle by going to the gym and the proper nutrition to build from, now it is a matter of letting the building happen! Although one can argue that sleep is more important during the cutting phase I would once again stress it’s importance also during the bulking phase. Remember that you both need rest and food to make gains, you can not substitute one for the other.
Sleeping when cutting
Being deprived of sleep during your cut can be fatal (not literally, but it is not an enjoyable experience, since you might already be lacking in energy due to the calorific deficit). Keeping the immune system functioning is very important during a cut. Catching a cold whilst commencing a cut is devastating (at least mentally). Deprivation of sleep can lead to a decrease of the immune system’s capacity. Furthermore the body will just as during your bulk want to repair and (hopefully) supercompensate for the broken down muscles you have trained that day.
In addition to keeping your body well functioning there is some more benefits to a long sleep during the cut. Now this might seem like an obvious statement, but if you manage to transfer it into your life it is very effective: You are not hungry whilst asleep, the longer you sleep the longer you won’t have to suffer from the wicked daemon of hunger! Some people have problems going to sleep on an empty stomach, I would recommend eating your calories when they are most needed (around training) and not waste them when they are redundant.
What if I mess up my sleep one night?
Do not worry, friend! Even though you might suffer during that particular day the occasional mishap won’t hurt you in the long run. A longer period of sleep deprivation might, however, lead to unfavourable hormonal environments in your body. I will link to an article that delves deeper into the hormonal impact of inadequate sleep.
At what point should I consider taking a day off from the gym even if it is not scheduled?
My recommendation here would be to let your body decide. If you only got around 5 hours of sleep and don’t feel like a zombie you could hit the gym, just make sure that it isn’t a repeated process. If you go below that amount of sleep I would reconsider it though. An important note here is that I am only speculating from my own experiences and studies that are interesting to us are lacking. I have taken involuntary days off from the gym on a few occasions as a result of inadequate sleep. One of those was when I was cutting for a competition and wanted to reduce my hunger by drinking more coffee, needless to say sleeping came hard that night. Lesson well learned.
Lastly, by letting your body decide, I do NOT sanction the types of excuses that you often hear, “I am too tired to go to the gym”. The only excuse is that you cannot possible perform whilst working out. Having a hard day at the work or in school is never an excuse. I have worked at a farm and after work still gone to the gym. My conclusion is therefore to be honest with yourself. Did you have a horrible night’s sleep and have gone hard at the gym the previous days? Then yes, you might need a day off. Did you have a tiresome day at work or school? Quit being a bitch and get in the gym.
Getting your sleep in
Getting enough sleep might not be as glorious as entering rage in the gym or making a good bodybuilding meal but it is still very important. Do not cheat yourself by neglecting to take care of your sleep. Just as you get your time in the gym in you need to get your time in the bed in as well. Now, I am fully aware of that sleeping isn’t the most fun thing you can do, especially if you are working late and want some time when you get home. Keep in mind however that it is an integral part of the whole game and the results are a combination of everything.