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The One Thing Athletes Forget

In the pursuit of total body wellness, athletes are a committed bunch. Fitness buffs may rave about finding a new kale smoothie recipe or share a plan for ideal muscle tone, but an important detail is often missing from this narrative of health and wellness. It’s a detail that doesn’t require you to break a sweat or experiment with pureed kale and carrots: it’s your nightly sleep.

Sleep has been an underdog in the health and wellness world for some time. As researchers study this basic human function, they’re discovering a lot goes on in the body while your mind is off in dreamland. Here’s what they found:

The biggest release of natural testosterone and HGH is produced during deep sleep.

That’s right, your body takes care of definition and toning while you are off in dreamland. Human growth hormone (HGH), the “miracle” substance that some say is the warrior in the fight against wrinkles, aging and obesity, is produced naturally within your body when you sleep. The spike in HGH comes during deep, slow-wave sleep: when brain patterns are most opposite from your alert daytime hours.

Protein synthesis and recovery happens at night.

Picture a busy highway during peak commute hours. If construction needs to be done to perform repairs, the most efficient time to complete the repairs is when the highway isn’t so busy and the cars won’t pile up in a traffic jam: at night. Just like a superhighway undergoing construction, the body does its best repairs at night. Your sweet dreaming time gives the body the break it needs to fix itself: an almost nonexistent luxury during busy daytime hours.

You’ll be more sore when you’re low on sleep.

Sleep deficit is shown to dramatically increase muscle soreness after working out. A lack of sleep actually compounds the effect of muscle soreness in an unfortunate downward spiral so you wake up and adopt the post-workout crazy-leg walk even more acutely. Picture this: instead of standing in an icy bath after your workout, you could just cozy up in bed instead and get some great sleep.

Sleep more, perform better.

The men’s varsity basketball team at Stanford (clearly already top athletes) were told to sleep as much as they needed as part of a study. These athletes saw almost a full second drop off their sprint times and a 9 percent increase in free throw percentages.

Are you plateauing in your quest for health and wellness? We’ve assembled eight of our best sleeping tips so you can perform at your peak.


sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC297368/, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21550729, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/