How The Body Heals Itself During Sleep
In our efficiency-obsessed culture, it’s not uncommon to hear a friend or coworker boast that they’re running on minimal rest because "sleep is for the weak." In some circles, surviving on just a few hours of sleep is almost desirable — a mark that one has mastered the principle of "mind over matter" and become a caffeine-guzzling, biology-defying productivity machine. After all, how can anyone be expected to maintain a work/life balance if they lie around doing nothing for eight hours a day? Never mind if you’re trying to maintain a fitness routine on top of all that. Just substitute adequate sleep with butter coffee and wheatgrass!
All jokes aside, this line of thinking is alarmingly common, in spite of great work by many organizations advocating for the importance of sleep. At Regal Sleep Solutions, one of the most common misconceptions we work to correct is the idea that sleep is a passive process. It’s understandable that people believe this, given that sleep generally feels like "shutting off" for the night, but the reality is anything but. Sleep is an active time of healing and recovery, in which the body consolidates memory, repairs the nervous system, and generates muscle and soft tissue.
Of particular interest to anybody pursuing fitness goals or recovering from an injury, the majority of tissue growth and repair occurs during sleep. Endurance and strength training involves the tearing down and rebuilding of muscle tissue. Our muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones cannot heal properly without sufficient sleep, and will show obvious signs of wear and tear over chronic sleep deficiency. When you enter deep sleep, your pituitary gland releases a hit of human growth hormone.
In fact, levels of human growth hormone and melatonin, both of which are critical for tissue recovery, are highest during periods of undisturbed deep sleep. Just 24 hours of sleep deprivation can slow recovery to 72% of its normal rate. 48 hours of sleep deprivation? You’re looking at a 42% recovery rate.
Healing from injuries requires the speedy generation of soft tissue and scar tissue, both of which primarily occur during deep sleep. Functionally, this means that it doesn’t make sense to spend hours at the gym or physiotherapist’s office and neglect getting enough rest. Sleep is the other side of the fitness coin.
That said, keep in mind that getting quality sleep is not just about how many hours you put in. For proper muscle growth and healing to take place, you must sleep on a surface that supports your skeletal system and keeps your spine in a neutral position. If you experience "knots" of pain, particularly in your neck or back, an ill-fitting mattress is a likely culprit. Even with a great exercise routine, key muscle groups can suffer stress and eventual chronic injury from an unsupportive sleep surface. The same way poor posture in your waking hours can lead to joint and disc generation, sleeping with a skewed spine can cause repetitive stress injuries over time.
If you’re recovering from an injury, it’s helpful to consult with a health professional before investing in a mattress. Look for a retailer who is willing to collaborate with your health professional and take into account your body type, sleeping position, and pre-existing health conditions. At Regal Sleep Solutions, we make a point of partnering with health professionals to improve patient outcomes. In our thirty years in the business, we've had countless customers tell us that a great mattress was the missing link in their health and fitness regime.