Do you love to work out but find yourself hitting a plateau in your muscle buildup? If you’ve been lifting heavy, but you’re struggling to see gains, it can be frustrating. It might have less to do with the gym than you think. In fact, the lack of muscle growth you’re seeing may actually be caused by problems sleeping. So, how does good sleep factor into getting bigger muscles?

Sleep and Muscle Growth

Some research studies have connected sleep to strength training because it is during sleep that muscle tissues damaged by lifting weights are repaired. (This is the process that increases your muscle mass). Therefore, if you’re not getting restorative sleep or you’re not getting enough sleep, new muscle tissue won’t develop.

Here are the specifics: When you’re not getting enough sleep or when you’re not getting restorative sleep, you don’t reach the N3 stage of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, which is when your body is triggered to produce the proteins and muscle-building hormones needed to grow.

Among these proteins is human growth hormone (HGH), so when children and adolescents fail to reach the N3 stage of NREM sleep, it can impact their growth.

Another impact of failing to reach N3 of NREM is that your body doesn’t amp up blood flow to muscles, so oxygen and other nutrients necessary to heal tissue damage don’t get to areas you’ve torn down by lifting. Thus, no muscle growth for you.

When you’re not getting good sleep, you also are likely not reaching REM (rapid-eye movement) stage sleep. Why is REM important? Because this is where your muscles relax, and tension from working out is relieved.

REM is also the stage where muscle memory is organized and consolidated, so the next time you work out, your muscles remember what to do.

How Much Sleep? 

Ideally you should get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. But, if you’re working out regularly, you may want to aim for a little more to help build up your muscles and increase strength.

But it is not just about how much sleep you’re getting; you should aim for good quality sleep, too. If your sleep is being interrupted because of partial or complete airway collapse, like that caused by sleep apnea, your brain will wake you up over and over again throughout the night. When your sleep is continuously interrupted, you never reach N3 or REM stages.

If your sleep is getting interrupted night after night when you have sleep apnea, it can also negatively impact your health. Some health problems that have been connected to sleep apnea include cardiac issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and an increased risk of heart attack; diabetes; Alzheimer’s disease; and cognitive decline.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

If you feel as if you’re not getting enough sleep, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Snoring or gasping for breath
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom at night to urinate
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings

If these signs are evident in your life or in someone you love, it’s time to talk about sleep apnea. Give Dr. van Zyl a call today at 479-337-4070 to schedule a consultation.