Looking for an excuse to stay longer in bed? …We may just have the perfect one here.
We’re often asked in clinic “is there anything else I can be doing myself at home to help my recovery?” and besides the exercises, hydration and ice and heat advice we give out, one very important factor that I find that a lot of people overlook when it comes to their recovery is the importance of sleep.
If you want to recover faster, reduce pain, decrease your risk of injury and have more energy, then sleep has a crucial part to play. The National Sleep Foundation (after reviewing 300 sleep studies) recommends that the adequate amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours a night. But why is that and why is sleep so important to your recovery?
When you sleep your body and brain are able to go into a deeper level of relaxation. Once in this state, it is your body and brain’s chance to recover and recuperate from the activities of the day. As you fall deeper into uninterrupted sleep you will cycle through 4 stages of deeper sleep, each responsible for certain processes that need to take place in order for your body to recover and heal while you rest.
Inadequate or broken sleep will therefore inevitably affect your bodies ability to effectively do this and whilst one night of poor sleep isn’t likely to have too much of an affect on your recover rate, after just a few nights of inadequate sleep, problems will soon start to occur and could well be the reason your recovery is taking longer than expected.
The Science Behind Sleep and Recovery
So what is actually going on in your body to help you recover when you sleep?
Increased Blood Flow
The first important processes to mention in your nighttime recovery and repair is the increase of blood flow to your muscles. As you enter the deeper stages of sleep your body and mind relax as you become disengaged from your surroundings. As less brain activity is required at this stage, around 40% of the blood flow usually sent to your brain is instead redirected to your muscles, which in turn increases oxygen and nutrient distribution to the muscles to help aid your recovery, repair and regeneration of cells overnight.
The second reason sleep is so important for your body to heal is the release of certain pro-recovery hormones. Again as you start to enter moderate to deep sleep, your body will start to relax. When the body enters this stage of sleep, your pituitary gland will helpfully start to release growth hormone (GH) into the blood stream. As GH floods your body during deep sleep it stimulates muscle repair and growth, while also aiding cell production and regeneration. The release of GH will also regulate your body’s metabolism to literally help you repair while you sleep!
Another important hormone released when you enter deeper sleep is prolactin. This particular hormone has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to regulate inflammation levels in the tissues and joints of your body.
If you don’t get enough sleep, the secretion of these important healing hormones declines and you are more likely to experience higher levels of inflammation; making it harder for your body to repair damaged tissue and recover from injury.
Now that you’re aware of the importance of sleep for your body to be able to recovery from injury you can use this to your advantage and whilst you have to respect the body’s natural healing times, looking at the quality and amount of sleep you are getting each night could make all the difference to your recovery time following an injury.
Look out for our next article for our 7 top tips to improve your sleep for a better recovery!