Could Your Sleep Habits Be Hindering Your Recovery?


Over the past several years I have noticed the word “recovery” being used more and more in the health and fitness world. It seems like every week there is a new gadget that is marketed as a recovery tool. Products such as Normatec boots, Theraguns, cryo chambers, and saunas have all been sold as the ultimate tool to unlocking your greatest athletic potential. While these things may have some benefit, I think most people are overlooking a massive piece of the puzzle when it comes to recovery. The good news is that this puzzle piece is completely free and available to everyone.


I’m talking about sleep!


Let’s look at some ways sleep helps with your health and recovery, then talk about what you can do to improve your sleep habits.


Sleep has been one of the great mysteries of the human experience for many years. We have known that it is important, but for a long time we didn’t know exactly why. While there is still a lot to be discovered about sleep, recent research has been able to uncover a few of the secrets concerning the purpose of sleep.


A recent study published in Science discusses the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in and out of the brain during sleep. They describe this as a “power washing” effect which helps to reduce beta-amyloid plaque buildup (this substance has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease) and reduces concentrations of inflammatory chemicals. 


Another study published in Physiological Reports details the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on muscle protein synthesis. According to this paper, one night of sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours) leads to a 17% decrease in protein synthesis and a 24% reduction in testosterone. In addition to this, it discusses how muscle and collagen fibers are laid down in a “haphazard” manner when subjects are underslept. This results in poor recovery from training and may lead to an increased injury risk in the future. 


Now let’s look at what you can do today in order to improve your sleep.


When looking to improve sleep there are two areas that we can focus on: quantity and quality. The recommended quantity of sleep per night is 7-9 hours. According to the CDC, an estimated 35% of Americans are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, our busy lives don’t always allow us to sleep as much as we should, which is why I tend to focus on improving quality of sleep rather than quantity. 


When it comes to improving the quality of your sleep there are a few easy lifestyle changes you can make which will provide exponential benefits. These changes include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom between 60 and 65 degrees
  • Make your room as dark as possible
  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Avoid alcohol or spicy food three hours before bed
  • Avoid blue light 3 hours before bed (cell phone, TV, iPad, etc)
  • Reserve your bedroom for sleep. Avoid working or watching TV in your bed

My recommendation is to start with one of these habits and slowly add in other ones as you go. I think you will be surprised at how much more rested you feel even if you don’t increase the number of hours you sleep. 


If you have questions about sleep or what other factors may be influencing your pain, recovery, or athletic performance call us today to set up an appointment. 


Blake Thomas PT, DPT, CMPT

Refine PT and Performance – Decatur