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Sleep to Get Fit

Muscles Develop Faster the More Sleep You Get

Are you spending hours a week at the gym and wondering why your fitness level is not getting any better? If you are looking at the newest trend in dieting or investing in the latest exercise machine, you might be looking in the wrong place. It may very well be that you simply aren't getting enough sleep.

Sleep more, develop fasterGetting Pumped While You Snooze

As strange as it sounds, for all the hard work you do in the gym the real gains occur while you are asleep. The body cycles between several stages of sleep in a night. During these stages, your body repairs and adapts to the stimulus you exert upon it during physical activity. This recovery and adaptation is the key to improving your fitness level, whether it be gaining strength, muscle or cardiovascular endurance.

When you repeatedly exert force with your muscles, small tears occur in the muscular fibers. Your body also undergoes neurophysiological transformations as your nervous system adapts to become more efficient and better coordinated at whatever physical activity you engage in. Both this repair and adaptation occur during the deepest stages of sleep, which account for most of the time spent while asleep.

If interruptions to your sleep occur for whatever reason, or you simply are not sleeping long enough, you will spend less time in the restorative stages of sleep. Your body will not have enough time to repair and adapt to your training. Not only that, but research has shown that sleep deprivation also reduces the ability to focus, lowers ability in hand-eye coordination, and decreases the efficiency of the immune system.

Over a short time period, a lack of sleep will prevent you from making adequate progress in your fitness goals. If sleep deprivation becomes chronic, it can increase your risk for injury due to reduced concentration and coordination, make you more susceptible to illness, and result in a condition known as over-training syndrome.

Three Easy Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

1. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bed. This is pretty obvious but caffeine can stay in your system longer than most people realize. It has a half-life of three to five hours, meaning it takes your body this long to get rid of half of the caffeine present in your system.

2. Just say no to alcohol. Not only can excessive alcohol intake have a negative impact on your health, but it can reduce your quality of sleep as well. Alcohol inhibits your central nervous system and can actually prevent your body from entering and staying in the restorative stages of sleep. A few drinks could wash away all the hard work you put in at the gym.

3. Protein before bed. A small snack packed with protein contains amino acids that help your body relax and glide off to sleep. Protein is also used by your body to repair muscle damage while you sleep. Eating a snack of mostly protein before bed will ensure your body has the necessary nutrients required to recover from your daily routine. A special type of protein known as casein is found in certain foods such as cottage cheese. Casein protein takes longer for your body to breakdown and will stay in your system longer than other types of proteins.

The next time you feel like your fitness level is not reflecting your work at the gym, before you start eating like a caveman or spend your hard-earned cash on the latest Super Ab Crunch 2000, try these tips instead. You may find that getting a better night's sleep will have you back on track towards your fitness goals in no time.

Author Bio: Joel Mark is an online author who is passionate about basketball, weight training & fitness. When he's not outside exercising, he studies a lot about health and nutrition, which runs the gamut from sleep apnea treatment to nutrition.