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Sleep Requirements for Figure and Physique Competitors


The Role of Sleep

Sleep is a vital element for successful results throughout competition prep for a client. Both quality and quantity of sleep are as important as each other, and the main aim is to achieve a good night’s sleep that is uninterrupted. This undisturbed sleep will definitely improve the ‘quality’ of the client’s sleeping routine. A good night’s sleep helps with both physical and mental preparation pre-competition and can have the following key benefits:

  • Sleep enhances physical health and overall emotional well-being.
  • Sleep improves mental alertness and sharpness.
  • Sleep can highly impact athletic performance.

Fundamentally, there are five stages of sleep that have been discovered by researchers and these are as follows:

Stage 1: This incorporates the body’s functions of slowing down and the muscles begin to twitch. Eye movement is also decreasing.

Stage 2: Brain waves slow down with occasional bursts of quicker brain waves. Eye movement stops.

Stage 3: The brain makes slower and faster delta waves and the person is now in a deep sleep. HGH is secreted during this stage. There is a feeling of grogginess if woken up in this stage.

Stage 4: Similar to stage 3, the brain now is only producing the slower delta waves. HGH is secreted during in this phase and this stage is essential for a client to feel vitalized and refreshed.

Stage 5: This is the rapid eye movement stage (REM). This should account for 25% of the total sleep quantity. Heart rate and breathing rate augment during this stage along with the REM. If this stage of sleep is interrupted then the next sleep that occurs moves straight into the REM stage. This is a catch up process and is the body’s way of making up for the lost time in the REM stage.

Current research has indicated that a poor sleeping pattern can have a negative impact on the body’s Basel Metabolic Rate (BMR) and glucose metabolism which is decreased by about 35%. The human growth hormone is also decreased when the individual has suffered with sleep deprivation. This hormone is essential for muscle growth and general recovery (see the section on the impact on hormones within this module).

In addition, cortisol levels can spike during the sleep debt or during poor sleeping patterns. This can have a negative impact on insulin sensitivity and can counteract the recovery process for a client. Increased levels of this stress hormone could be a catalyst for diminished muscle growth and repair (see the section on the impact on hormones within this module).

Sleep Requirements for Figure and Physique Competitors

Every client is different in terms of the amount of sleep that they need so that they peak at competition time. A rule of thumb is that due to the increased training intensity and load of the client during the pre-contest phase; more sleep is definitely required. This will ensure the client will recover properly from their heavy training and dieting schedules due to the high demands placed upon the body.

A sleep chart can be prepared with a client. This process will allow one to record the time that the client went to sleep, woke up, how they felt when they woke up and the overall quality of the sleep. After a few weeks compare the sleep chart with the client’s training program(s), gauging and comparing the good and bad training session(s). Whether there is a correlation between their sleeping routine and athletic performance can be determined at this point. The feeling of training when groggy and tired is hard work and takes real effort.  This is why a fitness professional needs to encourage a sound sleeping pattern with their client. Remember the training triangle – diet, training and sleep!

Many professional athletes try to sleep for around 8-9 hour per night combined with a further two hours in the afternoon. This helps with repairing damaged muscles quicker, and this strategy also doubles the hit off HGH (which is secreted during stage 3 and 4 of the sleep cycle). Encouraging the client to get the full of quota of sleep up to competition day, even if they struggle to sleep on the eve of the competition due to excitement and or nerves is important.

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