How much sleep do I need? This is an important question to many. The moment your head hits the pillow, do you fall into a deep sleep? Probably not, but that’s completely normal! Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your mind, body and overall health and wellbeing.
What happens when we sleep
There are a few different stages you go through when you fall asleep. First there’s non-REM sleep, which consists of three phases.
Stage 1: Your eyes are closed but it’s easy to wake you. This may last for 5-10 minutes.
Stage 2: You’re in a light sleep. Your heart rate slows and your body temperature begins to drop as your body is getting prepared for deep sleep.
Stage 3: You’re in a deep sleep. It’s harder to awaken you during this phase, and if someone tries to wake you up, you would feel disorientated for a couple of minutes.
This is the most important phase for individuals who regularly exercise and are looking to achieve a specific fitness goal. Experts suggest that as much as 75% of human growth hormone (HGH) is released during sleep, with the major period of release occurring during Stage 3. During this stage, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle and also strengthens the immune system. You’re essentially regenerating, getting charged up and fuelled for battle the next day.
So after your body works its way through the non-REM sleep stages, you reach your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. This typically happens 90 minutes after you fall asleep. The first period of REM usually lasts around 10 minutes, with each of your later stages getting longer. During this stage, your body and brain go through several changes, some of which include, rapid movement of the eyes, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sexual arousal and twitching.
REM sleep, sometimes referred to as paradoxical sleep, is often associated with vivid dreams due to the increase in brain activity.
Okay, so now we know how we go to sleep but how much sleep do I need?
This ultimately depends on you as a person. If you’re looking to change your body composition, increase muscle mass and get pumped up for the next day, it’s crucial to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You want to be able to reach your deep sleep stage where your muscle recovery takes place through protein synthesis and HGH release.
Asking the question: ‘How much sleep do I need?’ isn’t necessarily beneficial. Some people can work really great with just a few hours, if their body is used to it. Studies have found that 7-9 is the optimal amount of hours, whereas Dr. Krishna Singh suggests “every individual has a different sleep cycle, though a standard eight hour sleep is recommended.”
Dr. Linda Khoshaba, NMD, FABNE and Founder of Natural Endocrinologist Specialists AZ has also provided Auro with some professional insight regarding how much sleep we need at night:
“As a doctor and a lifestyle consultant, I would recommend at least 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night for adults that actively train. That means giving yourself an hour or two to wind down before actually going to bed. It is important that you stop drinking caffeine 4-6 hours before you sleep and switch off your electronics in your wind-down period.”
So, for a great night’s sleep, log off social media and wind down with perhaps some reading, a bath and some tea before bed. You could even try Auro’s sleep meditations to help you relax, instead of watching the TV at night. Auro’s meditations are guided by experts and can guide you through an easy and calming practice designed to help you get a better night’s sleep.
How sleep can affect your athletic performance
So, how does sleep actually affect our fitness and performance? Alex Savy, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and the Founder of SleepingOcean.com has weighed in on the topic:
“Because sleep plays a major role in our body’s regenerative processes, it can directly affect muscle recovery. During sleep, the body tries to repair its tissues, including muscles. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that sleep deprivation makes it difficult for the body to heal the muscles after all the exercise-induced stress…
In order to ensure your fitness routine stays on track, it is important to get enough sleep and keep stress levels low. Dr. Len Lopez. warns that ‘No sleep or lack of sleep doesn’t allow your body to fully recover from all the possible physical abuse you put on your body from your workout.’
Hormones also play an important part too, Dr. Krishna Singh informs Auro: “when you fall in deep sleep i.e. non-REM sleep, your pituitary gland releases growth hormone which helps stimulate growth and muscle repair. Another hormone is also released called Prolactin. Prolactin subdues inflammation caused by workout.”
Struggling to sleep?
Your sleep can be affected by several variables, from a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet to life stresses and environment. Here are Auro’s top 5 tips to help you sleep like an angel.
1. Avoid sugary snacks before bed
The more high-sugar foods and beverages you have, the higher your insulin levels are. This in-turn lowers your HGH levels. If you want to avoid inhibiting your natural HGH production during sleep, you should avoid foods high in sugar generally, but especially before bed.
High Intensity Interval Training promotes high levels of HGH secretion and allows you to expend increased levels of energy, which helps ‘tire you out’ and therefore sleep better. The Auro app has a number of quick and effective HIIT workouts to guide you into a deep sleep.
3. Avoid caffeine after 4pm
Caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6-8 hours. It stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. If a cup of coffee past 4pm is a must, then stick to decaffeinated coffee.
4. Yoga and meditation
Relaxing your body and mind with a form of meditation or yoga can play a huge role in your sleep. Auro offers a number of classes, including deep sleep, meditations and yoga flows, which may help to soothe the mind.
Now a Friday night gin and tonic is perfectly acceptable, but drinking regularly at night can negatively affect your sleep and hormones. Alcohol is known to increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring, and disrupted sleep patterns.
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms (your 24-hour internal clock) and with sleep. By drinking alcohol, it alters your nighttime melatonin production, having a negative affect on your circadian rhythm. In short, it stops you from ticking the way you should be!
Sleep is such a beautiful thing, they would never have created Sleeping Beauty if it wasn’t! The way your body functions during the night is so important for your muscle recovery. To reach your optimum levels of fitness and keep striving for the better, you really need a great night’s sleep.
You can try out any Auro classes completely risk-free by starting your free trial today.