Athletics Magazine

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

By Brisdon @shutuprun

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?


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