Post-exercise insomnia: what is it and how can I prevent it?

Working out late at night can lead to post-exercise insomnia, causing a bad night's sleep. Here's our tips for preventing this.

In-Bed-Awake-With-Post-Exercise-InsomniaPost-exercise insomnia can keep you up for hours

For many of us with hectic lifestyles, the only opportunity we may get to exercise is in the evening. You exercise to feel better and become healthier, but a disturbed sleep pattern could have the opposite effect – and there are many unfortunate enough to experience post-exercise insomnia.

What is post-exercise insomnia?

Understanding post-exercise insomnia will help you fight it; if you understand the causes you can try to combat them.

Post-exercise insomnia is no laughing matter

Post-exercise insomnia is when our bodies find it hard to get to sleep following a big race or late-night workout. There are a number of reasons this happens.

The production of cortisol

This hormone is released in response to the stress that exercise puts on your body. When participating in exercise, this is positive as it helps your body adapt, in turn increasing your performance, but when you want to sleep elevated levels can have the opposite effect. Exercising late at night can confuse your body as the extra cortisol generated can bring it out of its natural cycle.

Your core body temerature is too high as a result of dehydration

During exercise, hydration decreases as water will be lost as sweat and your core temperature will increase. It is harder for your body to bring its core temperature down when it is dehydrated. Various studies prove that we sleep better in cooler environments, so if our core temperature is higher it is inevitable our sleep quality will worsen.

A raised heart rate

This can confuse our bodies as when we sleep our heart rate will drop. A common method of becoming more focused and awake during exercise is to consume caffeine, whether it’s by drinking a or taking a tablet. If you are consuming stimulants close to bedtime it could be the reason why it’s hard to fall asleep.

Jump in a cold shower or bath to lower your body temperature
How do I prevent post-exercise insomnia?

You might feel like you’re stuck in a rut and that there is no end to post-exercise insomnia, but you’ll be glad to hear there are many things you can try to ‘cure’ yourself.

Workout as early as possible

Obviously, the longer you leave between working out and sleeping the less the effects will have on your sleep quality. Try to schedule your workout earlier in the evening rather than just before bed, ideally at least 3 hours before your desired bedtime. Alternatively, set your alarms a little earlier and get your workout in before the day starts.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is an essential aspect of any healthy life. Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking little and often. If you find yourself forgetting to drink regularly then try downloading a free app such as ‘Drink Water’ from the app store for free. It will remind you to drink via push notifications and allows you to track how much you have consumed so far that day. During and after your workout you should also ensure you are drinking enough, to work this out you can weigh yourself pre and post-workout and drink the difference in your weight as this is how much water you have lost from sweating.

Consume less caffeine

It is tempting to come home from exercising and make yourself a coffee to wind down. However, you should consider replacing this with a drink that doesn’t contain caffeine, such as water or a hot chocolate. Caffeinated drinks should only be consumed prior to exercise to prevent keeping you up at night.

Opt for a non-caffeinated drink when suffering with post-exercise insomnia
Cool down effectively

It’s tempting after a workout to leave the gym, get home, shower off and jump into bed. As mentioned earlier it is important to cool your core down. Easy methods you could use to do this include having a cool shower or bath or sitting in an air-conditioned room/car. The methods are easily achievable as it’s likely you will have a shower when you get home anyway and if you don’t have air conditioning in your house it is likely your car will.

Your bedroom should also be between 15-20°c to make it a comfortable sleeping environment.

Give yourself enough time to sleep

Training your body to sleep and wake up the same time everyday can help it to stay in a cycle. You should aim to sleep for 8-10 hours per night. This will give your body enough time to recover from the affects of training and replenish what needs replenishing.

Consider supplements

I was having sleep issues myself a few months ago and a few people recommended I try a ZMA supplement by Myprotein. Not only would they help my sleep, but they help with muscle recovery following exercise too. I tried them, love them, and take them regularly now.

Struggling to get to the gym? 6 tips to fit your workouts into your day‘ is also worth a read as it gives a number of tips on how to workout around your life when you’re unable to go the gym. Tips include making the most of your lunch break and getting the kids involved if you’ve got little ones at home.

These easy to follow tips could ensure you have a good night’s sleep every night and are only small changes to your daily routine. Try them for yourself and feel the benefits of sleeping through the whole night comfortably.

Sam Walker
the authorSam Walker
Sam is a regular gym goer who loves a strong spin or step class. Her main fitness goal is to tone up and be a healthier / fitter version of herself.

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