SLEEPING FOR SIZE

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How a good night's sleep builds muscle

By Tim Scheet

A good night's sleep is important for maximal growth and recovery following a workout. During sleep, the body "shuts down," allowing metabolic processes to become more effective. Some people claim they need only three to four hours of sleep a night, but most need at least eight hours to feel fully refreshed. Bodybuilders, in particular, need adequate sleep for growth and recovery, especially with one crushing workout after another.

Melatonin, produced naturally from the amino acid tryptophan, is a hormone secreted by a gland in the brain. Several things can interfere with the body's natural production of melatonin. Those include exercising intensely, ingesting alcohol, allowing too much light in the room when trying to sleep and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen sodium and aspirin. Mood, appetite and feelings of well being are adversely affected when the body is low in melatonin.

In supplement form, melatonin can help some people get more sleep and is effective in treating jet lag and certain sleep disorders. Research showed that taking a melatonin supplement helped travelers regain regular sleep patterns more quickly than when they relied on nature to take its course. The subjects in that study also reported that they fell asleep quicker and felt more rested the next morning.

Timing the dosage is important. Travelers who take melatonin on the day of a flight have reported better results than those who begin taking the supplement several days before a journey. Furthermore, reports indicate that taking melatonin regularly may inhibit many of its benefits. This supplement should be reserved for occasional use.

To maintain naturally high levels of melatonin, keep your bedroom very dark, cut back on NSAIDs and avoid alcohol late at night. Train earlier in the day. With melatonin supplements, take one to three milligrams before bedtime (start with the lower dose and work up to the higher amount on subsequent nights if need be).

SLEEP TIP: Get out of bed when you first wake up. Don't roll over and snooze for another five, 10 or 20 minutes. The additional "sleep" most likely will only make you feel more tired or groggy.

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