Sleep and Workout Recovery

Sleep is the silver bullet of recovery

3 min readJul 31, 2018


Do you follow an effective workout plan, train hard, and diet consciously but still feel like you’re not making any progress? The culprit may be a lack of sleep. Here are 4 ways sleep affects your workout recovery.

Sleep and History

In the pre-industrial age, sleep was considered a godly activity. Jump forward to the 20th century and society’s attitude began to change. “Sleep is a criminal waste of time” (Thomas Edison), and “Money never sleeps” (Gordon Gekko) highlight society’s current attitude toward sleep. Today, over 1/3 of adults sleep less than 7 hours a night (the minimum recommended amount).

Sleep and Workout Recovery

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is an important hormone produced by your body to facilitate muscle building and break down fat cells. HGH is so useful that it is commonly used as an illegal performance-enhancing drug amongst elite athletes to help build muscle and ward off fat. Elite athletes aren’t the only people who benefit from HGH. The average person considerably benefits from naturally producing as much HGH as possible through sleep and exercise.

Your body releases 75% of its HGH during sleep. If you are not sleeping enough or have interrupted sleep, your body will produce less HGH, resulting in less fat reduction and longer muscle repair time.

Sleep and Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation leads to an increase of ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone released in your stomach that increases appetite. When ghrelin enters the brain, it triggers your body’s need for energy. The quickest way to get energy is by eating simple carbohydrates, so you end up craving sugary foods for immediate relief. Sleeping less than 5 hours a night is linked to a 50% chance of being obese, significantly due to this hormone.

If your goal is to trim fat or lose weight, you want to avoid producing more ghrelin as it can impede your hard work at the gym.

Sleep and Your Decisions

If you have trouble sticking to a workout schedule or lose self-control as the day progresses, a lack of sleep may be the root cause. Radiolab talks about how sleep refills our self-control ‘bucket’. As we make decisions throughout the day, we use up some of this self-control. Once the bucket is empty, our decisions become undesirable: we skip going to the gym, we go for the extra dessert, or we stay up late again. A partial night’s sleep only partially fills the bucket while a full night sleep fully restores the bucket.

Consistently making poor decisions will hinder your fitness journey, making it seem impossible to reach your goal.

Sleep and Brain Waste

Every cell produces waste as a byproduct of functioning correctly. Your body’s cells can dispose of that waste at any time, but the waste generated by your brain cells can only be removed during sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, waste will accumulate in the brain, which results in feeling dazed, a loss of focus, and other adverse health effects.

It’s difficult to have a successful workout when you’re not focused and feeling groggy; get a full night sleep to prevent this!

Often overlooked, sleep is as important in a fitness plan as effective training and a conscious diet plan. Aim to consistently get a full night’s sleep to speed up your workout recovery. If you suffer from a lack of sleep, you can try some of these tips to better mentally & physically prepare yourself for sleep:

  • Exercise during the day
  • Avoid caffeine after lunch
  • Take a warm bath in the evening
  • Avoid bright lights & screens before bed (e.g. bright bathroom lights, television, mobile phones, etc.)
  • Create a distraction-free environment in your bedroom
  • Make your bedroom as dark as possible

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