Sleep undoubtedly plays an inextricable role in the recovery process.
“Sleep is this incredible period of our lives where we are not conscious. We might dream, we might twitch, but in sleep, we are only in relation to things that are happening within our brain and body. It resets our ability to be focused, alert and emotionally stable in the wakeful period”.(8)
Sleep is the foundational element of the recovery process. Apart from feeling lethargic and/or groggy the next day, improper sleep quality can also negatively affect muscle recovery and repair, increasing the likelihood of injury and decreasing overall performance quality. While a lot of us know that quality sleep is imperative to our wellbeing, not many of us are equipped with the tools to action it.
To understand a little more about the mechanisms that are functioning while we are asleep, we can first delve into the two primary stages of sleep:
REM Sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep: occurs in cycles of approximately 90-120 minutes. While a 24 hour period is known as a circadian cycle, these 90 minute cycles are referred to as ultradian cycles. REM sleep is believed to comprise approximately 25% of our total sleep time and dominates the later portion of the sleep period, primarily supporting energy production, neurological functions and emotional regulation.
Non-REM Sleep: also known as deep sleep, plays a more crucial role in our physiological recovery, and particularly, muscle recovery. It is during this phase that our brain is resting with very little activity, dropping our blood pressure, heart rate, and slowing down our breathing. Considering the brain monopolises so much of the body’s resources during the waking period (almost 20%), Non-REM sleep allows for the redistribution of blood supply to the muscles, delivering extra amounts of oxygen and nutrients and promoting healing and synthesis. The heart is also given a chance to rest and repair, which is particularly significant to athletes, where the cardiovascular system is frequently challenged through intense physical exertion. This period of sleep also stimulates the release of hormones from the pituitary gland, and specifically, Growth Hormone, which stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair.
Deficiencies in sleep, or frequently disturbed sleep, reduce the quality of deep sleep achieved throughout the night. The experience of waking up groggy after tossing and turning all night, having struggled to get into deep sleep, is almost universal. This is because the rejuvenating effects of sleep is not only determined by the quantity, but also by the quality. Consistent sleep deficiency in athletes may result in significant consequences (7):
- Inhibited ability: In a team of male athletes, sleep loss reduced average sprint performance (1)
- Decreased accuracy: After sleep deprivation, male and female tennis players had decreased serve accuracy of up to 53% (2)
- Quicker fatigue: In a study of male runners and volleyball players, both groups of athletes fatigued quicker after sleep deprivation (3)
- Decreased reaction time: A lack of sleep adversely affected reaction time in a group of male athletes (4)
- Risk of injury: Research of college athletes revealed that a chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased rates of injury (5)
- Risk of illness and immunosuppression: Poor sleep habits are associated with lower resistance to illness, such as the flu (6)
- Emotional Dysregulation.
- Difficulty learning new tasks.
Just as we cannot talk about wakefulness, motivation, wellbeing and performance without talking about sleep, we also cannot talk about sleep without talking about wakefulness as these two states are intimately tethered to one another. What we do when we’re awake can affect how quickly we fall asleep, whether or not we stay asleep, and how we feel when we wake up the next day.8
Studies indicate that most of us, if not always, at some period of our lives, will struggle with achieving quality sleep. This is often because of poor sleep hygiene habits that include extensive late night screen time, eating late, busy work/school schedules, jetlag etc., which leave us feeling ‘wired’ into the late hours of the night. This then manifests as sleep quantity deficiencies (i.e. tossing and turning until 2am when you have to be up at 6am), as well as poor quality/disturbed sleep, characterised by tossing and turning throughout the night.
There are a lot of tools available to improve sleep quality, and these tools can be divided into two main categories, specifically behavioural and biochemical
Some behavioural tools include using lower light in your home in the evening, reducing screen time, limiting caffeine intake, exercising and having a ‘wind down’ routine amongst many others.
While behavioural interventions are foundational to all elements of wellness, they are highly vulnerable to the variability experienced in our everyday lives. While many of us would love to put away our laptops earlier, our work commitments and well…life, often gets in the way. Hence, having dependable biochemical tools is imperative to maintaining consistency in our routines, which is particularly important to high performing individuals for whom showing up consistently and at peak performance is a prerequisite.
Building upon good behavioural foundations, supplementation with magnesium is a great natural option for improving access and control to better sleep. It has been clinically established in both human and animal studies that magnesium deficiencies are often an underlying cause of troubled sleep and even insomnia. This is because magnesium is inextricably tethered to multiple pathways that are responsible for promoting restfulness.
PILLAR’s TRIPLE MAGNESIUM formulation combines three scientifically demonstrated forms of magnesium to optimise recovery, including Magnesium Citrate (the most clinically justified bioavailable preparation), Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate.
These forms of magnesium have been specifically selected for their superior bioavailability profile, demonstrated tolerance, and capacity to work synergistically to provide a wide scope of benefits, ranging from mood support to muscle recovery. While PILLARs TRIPLE MAGNESIUM formulation includes a broad spectrum of magnesium preparations to address all of your recovery needs, Magnesium Glycinate undoubtedly plays the star role as it pertains to improving sleep. Considered one of the more tolerated and gentle formulations, Magnesium Glycinate is a highly bioavailable option and is typically well absorbed in the GI tract. It is often associated with the ‘calming effects’ seen with magnesium supplementation, and is used extensively to support sleep and mitigate sleep disrupting muscle cramping. It also works synergistically alongside many neurotransmitters, like GABA, to promote calm and help relieve sleeplessness.
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, is an endogenous neurotransmitter that is primarily responsible for balancing the excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain and serves by inhibiting neural activity. GABA’s main physiological functions include reducing mental and physical stress, easing anxiousness, promoting calm and inducing sleep, and is upregulated by magnesium. A growing amount of data suggests that low levels of GABA can be a factor in overthinking, anxiousness, stress and even difficulty sleeping, which are almost ubiquitous to the human experience. Thus, by helping to soothe the nervous system, magnesium may help support your body and mind for restful sleep.
Secondly, magnesium also supports the production of the infamous sleep hormone Melatonin, which fundamentally underpins the sleep-wake cycle in the body. Its production naturally increases in the evening as our eyes input data about the surrounding darkness, which activates the parasympathetic nervous systems ‘rest and digest’ mechanism. However, extended exposure to artificial light through our phones and computers, as well as overhead lights can have deleterious effects on Melatonin release and causes disruptions to our circadian rhythm and sleep quality.
Melatonin’s relationship with sleep has been so well established that melatonin has become one of the most widely prescribed supplements to support sleep in both children and adults. Unfortunately however, melatonin also has a significant side effect profile (such as drowsiness and potentially delaying the onset of puberty in children), as well as significant contraindications with different medications and pre-existing illnesses. Therefore, supplementing with magnesium provides a safer alternative by supporting the production of endogenous Melatonin and other sleep promoting neuromodulators, within safe parameters and without the risk of unpleasant side effects.
High performing athletes are often subject to rigorous levels of mental and physical strain. Without optimal levels of deep rest and recovery, feelings of burnout, exhaustion and fatigue emerge and may lead to increased risks of injury and illness. Sleep is also essential for cognitive processing. Sleep deficiency is associated with a decline in cognitive function, which is particularly deleterious on athletes whose sports require a high level of cognitive function, such as decision making and adapting to new stimuli. The period of sleep is integral to the function of almost all physiological functions, including the reinforcement of the immune system, emotional regulation, new motor skill acquisition/retention, muscle recovery and upregulation of anti-inflammatory/healing processes.
We cannot talk about performance without talking about recovery. Magnesium plays an integral role in the support of sleep quality and quantity by addressing the time it takes to fall asleep, the quality of our sleep, and addressing disturbance factors such as muscle twitching/cramping. From dosage to formulation, all components of PILLAR’s TRIPLE MAGNESIUM formulation are clinically justified to provide multi-faceted support for optimal rest and recovery, ensuring you can put forward the best version of yourself each day.
- Skein, M., Duffield, R., Edge, J., Short, M. J., & Mündel, T. (2011). Intermittent-sprint performance and muscle glycogen after 30 h of sleep deprivation. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 43(7), 1301–1311
- Reyner, L. A., & Horne, J. A. (2013). Sleep restriction and serving accuracy in performance tennis players, and effects of caffeine. Physiology & behavior, 120, 93–96
- Azboy, O., & Kaygisiz, Z. (2009). Effects of sleep deprivation on cardiorespiratory functions of the runners and volleyball players during rest and exercise. Acta physiologica Hungarica, 96(1), 29–36
- Taheri, M., & Arabameri, E. (2012). The effect of sleep deprivation on choice reaction time and anaerobic power of college student athletes. Asian journal of sports medicine, 3(1), 15–20.
- Taheri, M., & Arabameri, E. (2012). The effect of sleep deprivation on choice reaction time and anaerobic power of college student athletes. Asian journal of sports medicine, 3(1), 15–20
- Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviourally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353–1359
- Fry, A. and Rehman, D., (2021). How Sleep Affects Athletic Performance, Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/athletic-performance-and-sleep
- Huberman, A (2021). Dr Andrew Huberman Podcast: Master Your Sleep & Be More Alert When Awake. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm1TxQj9IsQ&t=4217s