Roughly how many hours of sleep would you say that you average per night? Six hours? Ten hours? Now think about your fitness goals and the results you want to see from exercising. Are you where you would like to be, or are you on pace to get to where you would like to be? You can be doing everything correctly from the exercises that you perform, nutrition and supplementation, stress reduction, whatever it may be, and you aren’t quite getting the results you’re looking for.
The Stages of Sleep
What if I told you that the amount of sleep that you get in a night correlates to your recovery from exercise? In most cases, it is recommended that you get at least eight hours of sleep per night. This can vary depending on factors such as exercise intensity, frequency, and even your age, however. For the purpose of recovery, let’s stick with that eight-hour recommendation. Why is that the recommendation? There are four stages of sleep that cycle throughout the night. There is N1, N2, N3, and REM. Reaching N3 is essential for recovery, and it is important that your body spend enough time in N3 while the sleep stages are cycling. During this N3 stage of sleep, the body releases hormones that are essential for recovery at night. One of the hormones being released is Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is essential because it acts on many tissues in the body, muscle tissue being the big one, and it helps promote healing and recovery. HGH also helps raise other hormones in the body that are essential to recovery such as Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1).
How Do You Know Whether You Are Getting N3 Sleep?
As I have said, these sleep stages are constantly cycling throughout the night. Have you ever had multiple dreams in a night? That likely means that you reached REM sleep at least twice that night, which is great because your body got enough time in a deep sleep state and enough time in that N3 stage. Back to that eight-hour recommendation. Although this can vary slightly, it has been found that sleeping eight hours allows the body to go through two to four sleep cycles on average, therefore giving the body enough time in N3 and enough time for the essential hormones to be released.
This blog was written by David Sebree, Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.