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Post-Workout Insomnia: What It Is & How It Can Be Prevented

If exercise or an active lifestyle is beneficial for sleep, why do a lot of athletes find it hard to get some sleep even after a strenuous workout or training? If you’re experiencing the same, you might be suffering from post-workout insomnia.

What is post-workout insomnia?

Post-workout insomnia is a sleep problem or disorder often experienced by athletes and gym buffs who work out and train late in the night.

Though exercise is generally beneficial for sleep, doing it hours before bedtime can do more harm than good. Exercise doesn’t only ramp up your heart rate and core temperature; it also elevates your cortisol levels, the stress hormone. And, if you want to relax and sleep, your cortisol levels should drop and not rise hours before bedtime.

Cortisol, alongside bright gym lights, blocks the healthy production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

How can I prevent post-workout insomnia?

To make sure your workout routine won’t result in tossing and turning in bed at night, here are some post-workout insomnia prevention tips:

  • Try to avoid working out less than three hours before your bedtime.
  • Choose low impact and less intense workouts–like yoga, walking, or an easy run–if you plan to exercise a few hours before you sleep.
  • Stick to a routine. Schedule your workouts and sleeping time at the same time each night. Refrain from working out late only when you want to. The body’s circadian clock always looks out for patterns.
  • Always cool down after a tiring workout. Take a warm bath or shower not only to freshen up but also to bring down your body temperature which is crucial in helping you sleep.
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after your workout. Not hydrating your body enough can make it difficult to sleep because it increases both your heart rate and body temperature.
  • Cool your bedroom. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the suggested bedroom temperature for achieving a truly restful sleep ranges from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Refuel by grabbing a light snack with equal amounts of carbs and protein such as a whole-grain toast with peanut butter, low-fat cheese and crackers, or a glass of milk. By refueling after a late-night workout, you won’t feel bloated nor hungry. Too much or too little food can disrupt your sleep.
  • If your schedule permits, do your workout in the morning or afternoon instead. You can also experiment on what time of the day is most beneficial for you to work out as long as it won’t ruin your healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  • Make your bedroom more sleep-friendly. Install drapes or curtains to block out the lights and noises from outside. You can also use white noise apps to calm and lull you to sleep.

Don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise, and vice versa. Reap both the benefits of enough hours of sleep and an active lifestyle without having to sacrifice one or the other. Follow the above tips to fight post-workout insomnia!


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