Friday, February 27, 2015

9 Reasons It Might Be Hard to Sleep After Your Long Race/Run

I remember before my first marathon (Arizona Rock ‘n Roll in 2009 <- this race recap was my first blog post ever!) I read something about how difficult it is to sleep the night after a long race. I thought that had to be a load of crap because I figured after running 26.2 miles you would want to sleep into next year. Plus, everything you read tells you to sleep a ton after a marathon to aid in recovery. So, what’s the eff’ing deal?

As time has gone on and I’ve run my share of long races and what feels like a bazillion long runs, I’ve realized a trend. It is tough for me to settle in and sleep in a totally relaxed state the night after I put in a bunch of miles.

I thought about this conundrum a lot on Wednesday night as I lay in bed fidgeting and unable to get into a deep snooze. This was several hours after having run 16 miles (would it help if I turned off the light?).


I decided to get to the bottom of this with hopes of educating myself and maybe even you. So, why does this occur? Obviously the body is tired. Is it the mind that keeps us unsettled?

There is not much research on this (leading me to believe maybe I am the only one with this problem). What I found mostly came from running forums such as Runners World, Hal Higdon, etc.

1. This restlessness could be because you are wired and your metabolism is revved up.

2. Leg fatigue can lead to some discomfort. I already have the beginnings of what I think is RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), so this might come into play somehow.

3. You may be so excited/depressed/frustrated/consumed by your performance that you lie awake ruminating.

4. Dehydration can lead to insomnia. Maybe you’re not getting enough fluids before/during/after runs. Dehydration can also cause an increased heart rate, which can make it tougher to sleep.

5. Not eating enough calories can contribute to restlessness and inability to sleep. Typically I take in the most calories the day after a long run or race and not the day of. I should work on this. Carbs especially will be helpful.

6. It is possible the long run pace is too fast. Pushing too hard can screw things up in the body.

7. If you run late in the day, your core temperature may still be too high causing restlessness and discomfort. Gels with caffeine can carry quite a punch, so watch those.

8. Legs can actually have the sensation of still running (kind of like feeling like you are still on a boat when you get off).

9. Melatonin, a hot bath, white noise or sleeping in a cool room might help.

Anyone else have trouble setting down after a long run? What helps?



  1. OMG - I thought I was the only one! I never take anything to sleep except after the super duper long workouts. I thought I read it might be the adrenaline?

  2. Hi Beth! This is a very applicable post to comment on, as I wanted to chat with you about an opportunity with Sleep Number! Your mailbox is full, though. If you're interested in hearing more, can you shoot me an email at Thanks!

    1. Hi mail box is clear now, so want to try me again?

  3. Interesting read! I don't have insomnia, but I usually don't feel as "wiped out" as I think I should feel. I do usually feel the most fatigue/tiredness on the ride home (thankfully, I'm usually not the driver). Once I'm home, showered, and re-carbed, I'm good.

  4. Yes, yes and yes! This has happened to me after my first sprint triathlon, a 55 mile bike race and 1/2 marathons. Is it because we get so amped up mentally AND physically that we can't just BE, and fall asleep?
    I'm new to your blog...LOVE IT!

  5. Drives me crazy, this happens to me after every long run.

  6. Yep. My legs twitch ever so slightly.

  7. Two cold beers and a few hits of the strongest Indica strain you can find. Works every time.

  8. I definitely have this problem! I try to run early in the day and avoid caffeinated gels. In the evening I try to cool off my room, use the white noise (basically what you're saying) and a little light yoga about two hours before bed. No more than 20 minutes or so of stretching it out with mindful breaths. It seems to help a lot.

    1. I have this problem every time as well. I don't do any caffeine. And usually after a long, (most of the time it's in the morning) I'll eat something substantial to a small meal, shower and then lay down.
      I'll have to) try some yoga.
      Thanks Lizzy!

  9. Oh yes! After Chicago last fall, I don't think I slept for a couple of nights! Adrenaline baby!

  10. Gelatin, carbs and a magnesium supplement make a great night cap.

  11. After a long run, I have no problem sleeping (and might drop off mid-day actually!), but sometimes after a good race I am still too excited to sleep. I know. I need to get out more.

  12. I ALWAYs have trouble sleeping after a long run!!! Between the combo of asthma that flares up with a LR and legs that feel they can never stretch enough, I always have restless legs and sleep terribly!

  13. Yes! This always happens to me after hard races or long runs/rides.

  14. I usually have trouble sleeping the night before a race. After a race, I sleep like a rock.

  15. Did Disney Wine & Dine Half in November with my fuel of choice, Berry Shot Bloks with extra caffeine. Race started at 10ish, didn't get home until 4ish, took AGES to get to sleep even though I should have been exhausted. Oops.

  16. I get the cold shivers about 30 mins after finishing a long run (even in the middle of summer) and bundle up under the covers and nap it off. Over a few hours I start to feel my core temperature rising and eventually I can start moving again. I prop a big pillow under my knees (helps with the twitchy legs). It sucks after races because I'll be teeth-chatteringly cold and still wandering through the finish-line festivities.

    1. Same here, cold shivers and fuzzy head. Sometimes a temp. Definitely insomnia!

  17. YES, YES, YES!! I have always thought it such cruel irony that I don't sleep well after a marathon! Adrenaline, sore and achy muscles, obsessing over the race/training run, excitement over a good performance... I have just come to accept that the NEXT night I will sleep better!

  18. I never had this problem running, but the last time I ran 16 miles, I was in my mid-20s and in grad school, so perpetually fatigued....

    However, in my 40s, I find that if I bicycle more than 60 miles in a day, I usually sleep poorly the night afterwards. That's a long ride for me; my normal weekend rides are 25-50 miles. I get tired, but I either have trouble falling asleep or wake up after a few hours and then toss and turn the rest of the night.

    I do have twitchy legs after a long ride, so that's probably a contributing factor, if not the only cause. But I wonder whether it's something more systemic, since it seems to affect many endurance athletes regardless of the sport.

    I'll pay attention to it as I lengthen my long run this year.

  19. When I was like 18 I used to play soccer every Thursday night from 9pm to 11pm. By the time I got to bed I was still high on adrenaline and I couldn't sleep.
    Never had those problems after long runs, though.

  20. I am often the most fatigued about 2 hours after a long run and almost always need a nap. Generally then I don't seem to sleep well that night. Also, I am always frigid about 30 min. after a long run. The outdoor temp doesn't matter.

  21. I am ok after long runs but reliably can't sleep after important races. I think it's a combination of mentally still being engaged and being hungry. Honestly, rather than try to solve this problem, I now count on waking up in the middle of the night to write a race recap. No one bugs me from 3am-5am and I really like having the quiet to think about the race.

  22. I totally relate to this as well. I have done a few 50 mile races and been exhausted and I barely can sleep. I notice it seems like my body takes a really long time to "re-calibrate" (I don't know how else to describe it) after running so far. I will be extremely cold and tired at the finish but after a few hours trying to go to sleep I will be WIDE awake and feeling like I'm having hot flashes, like my body suddenly is in overdrive.

  23. There is very little that keeps me from sleeping (mostly, it involves a certain 5-year-old who still needs to ask permission to pee - ???). I would also recommend trying essential oils. I know, you're probably sick of hearing about them but they work. Of course, they only work if you actually use them. LOL!

  24. That list is pretty comprehensive, but missing one big factor: Cortisol. The hormones we release when stressed (<-- exercise stress counts) usually result in alertness. The body is ready to fly/fight, essentially. When cortisol levels are too high, we don't sleep (because by the body's logic - how can we FLY or FIGHT if we're dozing off?). This is the case when general stress levels are high, too. :)
    Because of this, insomnia is also a symptom of over-training (cortisol levels being too high, chronically).

    1. So Heather how do we get our cortisol levels back down so we can sleep?

  25. I also have problem with this BUT I do couple of things to fight inability to sleep!!!

    1. After the long run my Electrolytes are destroyed so I take two teaspoons of salt in a glass of water directly after the run. These calmes my nerves down and gives me new energy.

    2. I drink AFTERMAX 1 and half scoop with 0,5 litres milk and 3 smashed bananas inside.

    3. I turn on flux on my computer.

    4. I drink camomile tea.

    5. I go to my bed and then its hard to fall asleep :)

    6. I then CHANGE ROOM and begin sleeping in living room. This affects me and then I can go back to sleeping room and sleep.

    I know that this is not miracle but we have to try something :).

  26. and also!!!

    7. Drink water before, during and after long run.


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