We only heal, build and repair tissues at night when we sleep. So the more we exercise the more we need sleep, especially if we are tearing down tissues with micro tears. Keep in mind this applies to not just muscle but bones, tendons, ligaments and joints. My simple approach is to never use an alarm clock. Let my body determine the amount of sleep it needs.
There is good science out there to back this statement. A good summary source is the famous sports medicine doctor (and athlete) Dr. Gabe Mirkin.
You cannot reach your full potential in endurance sports unless you are able to sleep long hours and do not have a job that requires you to move about much of the day. Endurance training requires spending lots of time sleeping and resting your muscles. Nobody really knows how or why prolonged exercise makes you tired, but it appears that the older you are, the more sleep you need to recover from the muscle damage of vigorous exercise. For more info with study results read here on Dr. Mirkin’s free website.
My own experience is this is all true. I sleep more hours than when I was younger. I sleep more hours when I train for an ultra-marathon running 50-80 miles per week. My PCT partner John and I found we would sleep 9-10 hours on the PCT to maintain a steady 25 miles per day for 20-25 days. Neither of us sleeps that much at home.
I read in a heart rate training book authored by a medical doctor/athlete that his guideline was that if you were getting two or more colds per year…..you were either overtraining or not getting enough sleep. I did not get sick at all in 2015 when I ran 2,000 miles and backpacked 1,000 miles in the mountains.
- While you sleep, your brain triggers the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth. This can help you recover from injuries such as cuts or even sore muscles from your last workout.
- Quality ZZZs also help your body defend itself. During sleep, you make more white blood cells that attack viruses and bacteria, says Sunita Kumar, MD. Kumar co-directs the Center for Sleep Disorders at Loyola University Medical Center.
- In one study, people who slept at least 8 hours a night were 3 times less likely to come down with a cold than those who got 7 hours or less.
Sleep is your friend.