Stop Sabotaging Your Muscle Recovery

One night of bad sleep leads to reduced muscle recovery the next day.


Hypothetically speaking, it’s Monday. You’ve had a pretty crazy weekend of partying and drinking, and you’re not feeling your best since you’ve had a weekend of partial sleep deprivation. Then you remember – Monday is always chest day. Unfortunately, sleep is no longer just a luxury that can put off for later. The scientific community now recognizes sleep as being critical for an athlete’s well-being and performance. In fact, sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture, and studies have shown that when people are sleep deprived it’s physiologically similar to being intoxicated.


One study followed national-level rowers during a 4-week training camp followed by a single night of sleep loss. Following just one night of shortened sleep at the end of the first week of the camp, the rowers reported feeling very little muscle recovery, and felt like they were in a worsened emotional state in comparison to the previous day, which was preceded by a normal night of sleep.


There are real physiological consequences of losing sleep, such as reduced insulin sensitivity, increase evening cortisol levels, reduced immune function, disrupted GH production, and elevated adrenal levels the following day. Reduced sleep may interfere with muscle recovery, essentially creating a more catabolic state of increased muscle tissue breakdown and reduced anabolic environment.


Researchers wanted to examine how athletes responded physiologically to a single night of sleep deprivation followed by high-intensity interval training. The researchers had the athletes get a good night sleep before exercise, train hard, and then have them cut their sleep in half. The researchers found that the group following sleep loss was in a bad mood, less motivation to train, and felt tired the next day, but also power output (5 percent reduction) was reduced to a larger extent 24 hours after the HIIT session when subjects were partially sleep deprived, compared to having had a normal night of sleep. Collectively, this data suggests that recovery from an intense training session is compromised when followed by a single night of partial sleep deprivation. A night of normal sleep facilitates near full muscle recovery in maximal performance capacity.


Based on this study, sleep is not a luxury that you can neglect for optimal performance. Missing out on sleep puts you in a catabolic state, affecting your performance and muscle recovery the next day. If you are sleep deprived, you are better off just taking the day off and getting the sleep, rather than going to the gym. The use of a good pre-workout such as Shotgun or Bang Master Blaster are useful on days where you are sleep deprived, but they are not long-term solutions to not getting enough sleep.



Kölling S, Steinacker JM, Endler S et al (2016) The longer the better:sleep–wake patterns during preparation of the World RowingJunior Championships. Chronobiol Int 33:73–84.
Akerstedt T, Nilsson PM (2003) Sleep as restitution: an introduction.J Int Med 254:6–12Dattilo M, Antunes HKM, Medeiros A et al (2011) Medicalhypotheses. Med Hypotheses 77:220–222.
Rae DE, Chin T, Dikgomo K, Hill L, McKune AJ, Kohn TA, Roden LC. One night of  partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery from a single exercise training session. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Apr;117(4):699-712.