When it comes to sleeping, a body goes through what is known as sleep cycles. These cycles are an hour and a half in length. In non-scientific terms, if you have ever been asleep and someone said that they tried to wake you and you didn't wake up, most likely you were in the middle of the cycle where sleep is the deepest. Scientists don't know why the body needs sleep, it just does.
Along with sleep you need active recovery. For instance, after running the Austin Marathon in February, I took Monday off completely from running, biking or swimming. On Tuesday, even though my body was still very sore, I made sure to run a little bit. I only ran three miles and that was good enough to break up the lactate and soreness in my muscles to help in recovery.
If you deal a lot with soreness and don't feel like having a six foot Swedish masseuse making you cry because of what she calls "The power hour with thumbs of steel", check out the Marathon Stick. I use this after a long run to help recover and massage my legs. It works wonders.
Along with rest, when you're in the recovery mode, the number one thing that helps me is called cryotherapy. This is not for the faint of heart and if you don't like being cold, you WILL NOT like it. Essentially it is putting the affected areas, ie. feet, legs, hips, butt, into ice water. The not scientific terms around this are by restricting the blood vessels in the areas in the "ice bath" the heart and nervous system sends more blood to the area. More blood brings more red blood cells and other parts of the blood that help restore the body to optimal health. Will it work for you, I don't know. If it does, then that is great. If it doesn't, sorry you just spent time in a bath tub full of ice water and are not freezing. The recommended time to spend in an "ice bath" is no longer than 10 minutes. Scientific studies have shown that staying in the water longer does not have a greater effect.
Moral of the story, eat right, exercise and put your feet up and relax at the end of the day!
Before starting any exercise, diet or health routine, first consult your physician to make sure that your body is healthy enough for physical activity.