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Improving rate of recovery after exercise through better sleep

You can push your body to its limits, but if you don't prioritize your recovery, you'll never reach your full potential. And when it comes to recovery, getting sufficient rest and high-quality sleep will pay handsome performance dividends.

If you're taking on high-endurance, high-intensity, or high-impact sports, you're risking poor performance, injury and zero rewards if you don't invest properly in your recovery. 

Just like hydration and nutrition, getting enough rest and sleep is crucial for your recovery. It too can boost your rate of recovery, giving you the best chance to avoid performance slumps or plateaus that will not reward your training efforts. So, let's explore sleep, and quality Zzz’s, deliver A+ performance through better recovery.

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How good sleep hygiene help a faster recovery after exercise:

Sleep plays a crucial role in many physiological processes that promote recovery after exercise. Here are some ways sleep can help speed up recovery:

  1. Regulates hormones. Sleep is crucial for hormone regulation, especially growth hormone (GH) and testosterone. GH is necessary for tissue growth and repair, while testosterone is responsible for muscle protein synthesis. Adequate sleep can improve the secretion of these hormones, leading to faster recovery after exercise.
  1. Promotes Muscle Repair: During NREM sleep, the body releases growth hormone, which helps to repair and rebuild muscles that have been broken down during exercise. This process is crucial for building strength and endurance
  1. Enhances Mental Recovery: Exercise not only places physical stress on the body but also mental stress. Sleep helps to reduce stress and anxiety, allowing for mental recovery. Processes in deep sleep have also been shown to help embed new skills and learnings.
  1. Restores energy. Sleep helps restore glycogen levels in the body, which is essential for energy production during exercise. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles, and its depletion can lead to fatigue during exercise. Sleep is necessary to replenish glycogen stores, allowing the body to perform at optimal levels.
  1. Reduces inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response to exercise-induced muscle damage. However, excessive inflammation can hinder recovery and lead to muscle soreness. Sleep helps reduce inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, promoting faster recovery after exercise.
  1. Enhances immune function. Sleep is essential for immune function, which can be compromised after intense exercise. Adequate sleep promotes the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections and promoting recovery.

Lost sleep will impact athletic performance in training and in competition In addition to the recovery factors above, sleep deprivation can also impact performance through:

  1. Reduced cognitive function: Lack of sleep can lead to decreased reaction time, impaired judgment, and decreased endurance, all of which can negatively impact athletic performance.
  2. Impaired motor function: Sleep deprivation can impair motor function, leading to an increased risk of injury during exercise.
  3. Increased stress and anxiety: A lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety, which, if sustained, can negatively impact both physical and mental health.
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16 Ways to Improve Your Sleep for Better Recovery after Exercise

A bad night’s sleep will not only impact your sporting life but your family, professional and social interactions too. Get sleep right and it will super charge your sporting performance and a you’ll see new achievements in other areas too.

Here are some areas to review that will help improve the duration and quality of your sleep:

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your circadian rhythm and makes it easier to fall asleep at night.
  2. Create a relaxing pre-sleep routine: Take a warm bath, read a book, or practice deep breathing exercises to help your body unwind before bed. A relaxing pre-sleep routine can help signal to your body that it's time to wind down.
  3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime: Both can disrupt your sleep cycle and leave you feeling groggy in the morning. 
  4. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet: Use blackout curtains, earplugs, and a fan or air conditioner to create a comfortable sleep environment. Your bedroom should be a haven for rest and relaxation.
  5. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows: Your bed should be a sanctuary for rest and recovery. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows that promote proper alignment and support.
  6. Use technology wisely: Avoid using your phone or computer for at least an hour before bed to reduce the impact of blue light on your sleep. Blue light can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle, so it's essential to limit exposure before bedtime.
  7. Sleep monitoring technology: 
  8. Avoid intense exercise right before bed: Try to exercise earlier in the day, as exercise can make it harder to fall asleep. Intense exercise can raise your heart rate and body temperature, making it difficult to relax.
  9. Limit your intake of heavy meals before bedtime: Avoid eating large meals or spicy food before bed, as these can cause indigestion and disrupt your sleep. Aim to finish eating at least a few hours before bedtime.
  10. Try to wind down your mind: If you have a lot on your mind, try journaling or meditating to help calm your thoughts and promote relaxation. A racing mind can make it hard to fall asleep, so it's essential to find ways to unwind.
  11. If you're having trouble sleeping, get up and move to another room: Trying to force yourself to sleep can be counterproductive and can cause anxiety. If you can't fall asleep after 20-30 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity in another room until you feel sleepy.
  12. Use aromatherapy to promote relaxation: Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and eucalyptus can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality. Try using a diffuser or adding a few drops of essential oil to your bathwater or pillowcase.
  13. Invest in comfortable sleepwear: Wear breathable, comfortable clothing that promotes relaxation and helps regulate your body temperature. Avoid tight or restrictive clothing that can interfere with your sleep.
  14. Try a sleep supplement: Supplements like melatonin, valerian root, and magnesium can help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying any new supplements.
  15. Reduce your exposure to blue light in the evening: Use blue light blocking glasses or adjust the settings on your phone or computer to reduce blue light exposure in the evening. Blue light can interfere with your body's natural sleep cycle, so it's essential to limit exposure before bedtime.
  16. Get professional help if needed: If you're consistently having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, consider speaking with a sleep specialist or healthcare professional to identify underlying issues and develop a treatment plan. They can help determine if there are any underlying sleep disorders or provide personalized recommendations to improve your sleep quality.

By implementing these 16 tips, you can create a sleep routine that supports your endurance training and overall well-being. Adequate restful sleep is crucial for athletes aiming to perform at their best. Not only does it aid in physical recovery, but it also enhances cognitive function, concentration, and mood.

Professional athletes prioritise rest

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Athletes paid for the sport they love enjoy the luxury of time. Being a pro-athlete, and performing in the limelight brings certain pressures but it also alleviates others. When it come to getting the rest, that powers the performance, the removal of the time burden of working to earn a living is a huge boost.

Pro athletes will schedule their rest, much like other areas of their life. They might also have access to sleep laboratories, blood testing and tailored supplements all designed to enhance their understanding of their sleep patterns and the quality of rest they enjoy.

Wearable technology also plays a guiding role. Sleep rings and bands, together with data from training and competition, inform professional athletes and performance teams how to balance performance effort with quality rest.

It doesn’t stop there, many professional teams travel with mattresses, pillows and bedding to enable better sleep. They are also meticulous about sanitising the sleep environment so immune systems are not tested after performances where the athlete “empties their tank”. 

Getting sufficient high-quality rest significantly improves rate of recovery. It is a super-power; impacting your life inside and outside of sport.

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