Sleep: The most underrated tool for calisthenics progress

Your muscles need time to rebuild and grow stronger, after working out. Without adequate sleep, this process is compromised, leading to slow progress, plateaus, and increased risk of injury.

What happens if you don’t get proper sleep

Sleep is a critical but often overlooked factor in building muscle and losing fat. Many people don’t get enough sleep, thus hindering their progress. Here is what happens to your body and mind when you don’t get enough sleep:

1. Your gains and strength will suffer!

Sleep deprivation has a significant impact on muscle protein breakdown, fat storage, and muscle strength, which are crucial factors for calisthenics progress.
Research suggests that lack of sleep can lead to increased muscle protein breakdown. Additionally, sleep deprivation promotes hormonal imbalances that leads to increased caloric intake and fat storage (1,2).
Sleep deprivation also impairs muscle strength. Adequate sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. When sleep is insufficient, these processes are disrupted, resulting in reduced muscle function and strength (3).

2. Your hormones go out of whack!

Growth Hormone plays a vital role in muscle growth, repair, and overall physical development. The majority of growth hormone secretion occurs during deep sleep, particularly in the first few hours after falling asleep. Poor sleep can significantly reduce the release of growth hormone, impairing muscle recovery and growth.

Testosterone is essential for muscle growth, strength, and recovery in both men and women. Testosterone levels rise during sleep and peak during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage. Insufficient sleep can lower testosterone levels, leading to reduced muscle mass and strength, and decreased performance.

Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, is involved in the body’s response to stress and helps regulate metabolism. Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, typically peaking in the early morning and declining throughout the day. Poor sleep or sleep deprivation can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which can increase stress, reduce muscle protein synthesis, and promote fat storage.

3. Your overall health will suffer!

sleep is a vital component of overall health. Lack of sleep impairs memory, concentration, and decision-making, while causing mood swings, anxiety, and depression. It weakens the immune system, increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and raises the likelihood of accidents. Sleep deprivation also reduces overall quality of life, causing persistent fatigue and decreased productivity.

How to improve sleep to maximize calisthenics progress

Improving your sleep can significantly boost your calisthenics progress. Here are some strategies to help you sleep like an old geezer:

  1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule and get 7-9 hours of sleep: Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day, even on weekends. This trains your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Aim for around 7-9 hours of sleep every day, you can experiment a bit to see how much exactly you need. Of course, no one is perfect except Bryan Johnson, so if you break the routine once in a while no worries!
  2. Wind Down Wisely: Spend the hour before bed doing calming activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Ensure your bedroom is a sleep haven by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. If you are unable to do that you can try earplugs, a white noise machine and/or a sleeping mask.
  3. Limit Screen Time and Evening Stimulants: Reduce exposure to screens (phones, tablets, TVs) at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light from screens can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, making it harder to fall asleep. Additionally, avoid stimulating activities and substances like caffeine, heavy meals, and intense exercise close to bedtime.
  4. Manage Stress and Get Natural Daylight: Practice stress-relief techniques like mindfulness, yoga, or journaling to clear your mind of the day’s worries and try to do something about the things that are stressing you if possible. Spend time outside during the day, especially in the morning, as natural light helps regulate your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
  5. Seek Professional Help When Needed: If you’re struggling with persistent sleep problems, don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare provider or sleep specialist. They can help identify and treat any underlying issues.

Having a perfect sleep schedule is properly not realistic for most of us, but by applying these tips most of the time you can significantly improve both the duration and quality of your sleep, and the improvements will definitely be noticeable in your training!

  1. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010 Oct 5;153(7):435-41. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-7-201010050-00006. PMID: 20921542; PMCID: PMC2951287.
  2. Song J, Park SJ, Choi S, Han M, Cho Y, Oh YH, Park SM. Effect of changes in sleeping behavior on skeletal muscle and fat mass: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Public Health. 2023 Sep 28;23(1):1879. doi: 10.1186/s12889-023-16765-7. PMID: 37770876; PMCID: PMC10540406.
  3. Chen Y, Cui Y, Chen S, Wu Z. Relationship between sleep and muscle strength among Chinese university students: a cross-sectional study. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2017 Dec 1;17(4):327-333. PMID: 29199194; PMCID: PMC5749041.


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