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Sleep / Sleep Disorders / Insomnia

Can Exercise Give you Insomnia? Connection Between Exercise & Insomnia

By BS MediaTwitter Profile | Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2022 10:31 UTC
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Beautiful black woman lying down on bed.
Beautiful black woman lying down on bed. Freepik / @HelloDavidPradoPerucha

This is a problem that many athletes confront, but few discuss: You know how exhausting it may be to finish a major endurance sport or a lengthy, strenuous workout only to lie awake in bed or toss and turn all night. Feeling heated or as if you can hear or feel your heartbeat might be a further distraction when trying to sleep. Even if you do fall asleep, you may find it difficult to stay asleep all night. Why is this so? How can something so exhausting keep you awake?

What Role Does Exercise Play in Insomnia?

While some research has connected exercise to insomnia, others have refuted the notion that working out leaves you wired for hours. What about the fact that exercising at any time of day or night is superior to not exercising at all? According to a recent poll, those who exercise regularly are more likely to report getting enough sleep.

Sleep scientists agree that two hours is plenty of time to unwind after a workout. However, the amount of time and intensity spent exercising also play an impact. I'm not sure what's going on.

Endorphins, which have analgesic qualities, are released by the brain in reaction to physical stress, such as that encountered during exercise. Exercise increases the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, which can help with depression and anxiety. The natural chemical mixture is responsible for the "runner's high" you experience after a vigorous workout. Exercise elevates cortisol levels, the stress hormone, according to Shawn Stevenson, founder of The Model Health Show and author of Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. According to Stevenson, "cortisol is harmful if it is produced at the wrong time or in the wrong quantities." Cortisol is a stress hormone, and decreasing it rather than increasing it at the end of the day causes more melatonin to be created, which helps you sleep.

Melatonin is compared to a "master switch" by Stevenson. It helps you have a good night's sleep, heals you, and can even help you lose weight. Stevenson adds that the fluorescent lights at the gym will also hinder the production of melatonin (just like the lights in your house and the blue light from your smartphone). Try some of these ways to avoid staying up all night after your evening workout.

Insomnia following exercise has several causes rather than a single, obvious reason.


The metabolic rate of your body (including your heart rate, core temperature, and perspiration generation) increases with physical exercise. It boosts your nervous and endocrine systems as well. The longer you've been in this excited or aroused state, the more difficult the exercise and the longer the training or competition. Two hormones, norepinephrine, and cortisol have been associated with sleep abnormalities during exercise.


This is to be expected given that the stress hormone cortisol is released in response to physical exercise. This growth isn't always bad because it's part of the training stimulus that leads to positive adaptation. Chronically elevated cortisol levels, on the other hand, are likely to be a factor when an athlete's training intensity is excessive and recuperation after sessions is a problem.

Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, rising about 30 minutes after you wake up and progressively decreasing throughout the day. As a result, when you go to bed at night, you're usually in the twilight part of the cycle. During a day-long endurance challenge like the Leadville 100, Dirty Kanza 200, or Ironman, cortisol levels are elevated and out of kilt with the normal daily cortisol cycle, which can contribute to sleeplessness.

What do you recommend for shorter workouts or competitions? A longer event that concludes earlier in the day may have the same impact as a shorter one that occurs closer to bedtime. What matters is the amount of effort you put in and how late it is before nightfall. If you train in the afternoon or evening, the good news is that you can establish a rhythm and effectively educate yourself to sleep after a workout. Insomnia after exercise is more common if the activity was more intense than usual or if the workout/competition was held later in the day than usual.

Hormones are to blame for this: Adrenaline and norepinephrine

When you engage in physically demanding activities such as exercise or competition, you produce more adrenaline and norepinephrine. While adrenaline levels drop swiftly after exercise, Shahsavar discovered in 2011 that norepinephrine levels can remain elevated for up to 48 hours. Perhaps this explains why some athletes can work out in the evening and sleep normally, yet struggle to sleep after really strenuous training sessions or extremely lengthy tournaments.


Caffeine-containing foods and beverages are commonly consumed by athletes before and during training and competition. Because their systems have become acclimated to the stimulating effects of caffeine, some people can drink coffee late in the day and still get a good night's sleep. If you have difficulties sleeping after a late afternoon/evening workout or a long endurance event, examine your caffeine intake and timing. It's probable that you'll consume far more caffeine than is healthy for you during the course of a 10-hour event. If this is the case, conserve the caffeinated sports nutrition items for when you need them the most to be alert and focused.

Dehydration as well as a higher internal body temperature

While you may not be able to regulate your body's hormonal response to exercise (though boosting your fitness and decreasing your stress levels would be beneficial), you do have complete control over your hydration condition and how it impacts your body's temperature. Your core temperature dips slightly while sleeping, but begins to rise again when you awaken. Furthermore, lower temperatures promote better sleep. Sleeping difficulties are a common complaint among persons whose body temperatures remain continuously high. It's considerably more difficult to bring your body temperature down after exercise, which raises it in the first place when you're dehydrated. Dehydration is almost unavoidable after participating in an endurance event for more than four to five hours. It's nearly inescapable after ultra-endurance races like the Western States, the Dirty Kanza 200, or Ironman. Dehydration has an effect on heart rate for hours following exercise or competition. Athletes report that when these variables combine, they feel hot even when resting in bed and monitoring their heart rate.

Recommendations to Fight After Exercise insomnia

It may be tough to get a decent night's sleep after a strenuous endurance event, but here are some recommendations to help you:

  • To become in the best form possible, do the following: Overall performance is merely one area in which fitness can make a significant difference. As a person's overall fitness level rises, so does their capacity to bear the brief, intense pressure of a workout or competition. In essence, your fitness level improves your ability to deal with stress without affecting your sleep. You can take some tablets to release stress and control your sleep pattern to fight insomnia and other sleeping disorders.
  • Reduce the stress in your life by saying, "Let it go, let it go..." Your increased sensitivity to excitatory hormones like epinephrine is caused by the extra cortisol released in reaction to ongoing stress, such as that caused by your job, a damaged car, or visiting in-laws (until a chronic overload of these hormones subsequently reduces your sensitivity to them).
  • Reduce your caffeine and sugar intake: Never forget that coffee has no real influence on your energy levels. It mostly improves focus and alertness, while greater consumption does not ensure better outcomes. Caffeinated liquids and foods are not reliable all-day marathon assistance. Caffeine consumption just before you need it is a superior strategy for endurance competitions. If you're an endurance athlete, you should look into caffeine.
  • Many athletes have discovered the need of cooling down before resting or eating after a workout or competition. However, it is also critical to actively work to cool down. Towel wraps, drenching clothing in cold water, ice packs, immersion in cool water (not necessarily ice baths), cool showers, and being in an air-conditioned area are all useful.

Make your bedroom cool; this will help to create a temperature gradient that will allow your core and skin temperatures to drop while you sleep. A comfortable bedroom temperature is normally between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, though this varies from person to person.

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