Snooze and Grow – the crucial role of proper sleep in building muscle

Most bodybuilders think that the best way to get quick and consistent results in building their muscle is to spend more hours at the gym than they do anywhere else.

This means making sacrifices to carve out that extra time at the gym, and the most common place where time is carved out happens to actually be the most important – rest.

Sleep is paramount

We all know that sleep is important and we all know what it feels like to not have gotten enough of it the night before. But new research is showing that for body builders, it might be a better idea to hit the bed than the gym. Studies have shown that sleeping adequate hours at night actually increases the ability to grow muscle due to the fact that you body is getting the proper rest. And what is even stranger is that your body actually develops muscle while you are asleep!

Plan your sleep habits with the same attention to detail like you would your protein intake – it’s not as exciting but it’s just as important.

Man on Mattress

While we don’t fully understand the processes behind sleep, getting a good night’s rest goes beyond choosing the right mattresses and bedding (that part is beyond the scope of this article, but you can see some reliable tips on that over at

Sleep Phases

It’s estimated that 60 – 70 % of our daily growth hormones are released during sleep.

It all happens during the early sleep phases, known as REM sleep or rapid eye movement sleep. While in REM – our body has the chance to refresh our organs, bones and tissue. It also replenishes our immune cells as well as circulates our human growth hormone around our body.

Is there such a thing as too much sleep?

Sleep is crucial for your body to get the chance to unwind and refresh, especially after a hard day in the gym. But it is also opposite to our desires if we get too much of it.

So, the short answer would be, “Yes.”

builder sleeping

Sleeping more than 8 hours a night actually reduces your chances of growing muscles due to the fact that your body starts to break down muscles to help with digestion and other bodily functions. This does not happen during early sleeping stages or when we sleep for less time because the body is still reviving and patching itself up. But once it has completed that process, all the things it left behind start getting done and the body uses muscle to process them.

The right way to plan your sleep routine

There are many things that body builders can do to make sure that they get the right amount of sleep to ensure that their body continues to grow while they rest. Three of the most common are:

1 – Don’t burn the midnight gym oil.

Exercising to close to bed time causes your body to be hyped and pumped up. Your temperature is higher than usual and your mind is focusing on the workout you just had. Not exactly the ideal conditions for sleep.  Instead, try finish off your last workout about 3 – 4 hours before lights out so that your body has a chance to cool down and your mind can unwind a bit before bed.

working out at night

2 – Power Off

One of the leading causes all round of not being able to get a good night’s sleep is artificial light. This could be your phone, TV, tablet, kindle, or laptop. The artificial light keeps your brain alert and prevents it from being able to get the much needed rest it deserves. Try shutting off all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you turn in.

builder with smart phone

3 – Cut the coffee & drinks

We all know how well coffee works for us when we get out of bed in the morning.

But drinking coffee any time after 2 pm causes your system to still be feeling the ‘buzz’ of it when it is bed time, even if you are not. Try limiting your coffee in the day and cutting it out completely after the afternoon to make sure your body isn’t kept up at night.



Alcohol also can keep us up at night, especially when we have a quick nightcap. Alcohol changes our circadian rhythm around and causes our normal sleep pattern to get thrown out the window. Ensure that you don’t drink any alcohol before bed to make sure that you muscle has the right conditions to grow while you sleep.

So the next time you decide to cut into your sleep time for those few extra minutes in the gym, keep in mind that not getting enough sleep stops you from growing the muscles you’re looking for. Rather go home and work out your muscles by getting some much needed sleep.