Reader To Reader: Help Me Sleep!

Why do some of us find it so hard to drop off after an evening run?


Posted: 14 October 2006
by Jane Hoskyn


"I have to do my weekday and some weekend runs in the evening (7-8 o'clock-ish). The nights after my runs I don't sleep very well. I've stopped using recovery drinks because I thought they were keeping me awake, but it's not made much difference. I think it's to do with endorphins, but I'm not sure what to do about it. Any advice, folks?"highy

Your best answers...

  • 1: Cool shower. 2: Good book. 3: Bedroom window open. 4: Ovaltine. 5: Someone special to tuck you in. # 1-4 recommended; # 5 essential. – Killercock
  • You have to force yourself into a routine. If I'm still a bit "live" when I go to bed I read a boring book until the eyes have had enough. – Blisters
  • The trouble is that when you exercise, you stimulate your entire system. You boost your blood flow, circulation and overall alertness. Despite being tired from a busy day at work, your body is effectively "woken up". The endorphins make you feel good and can leave you feeling great for hours afterwards. May I suggest that you do slow-paced, short-distance runs, so that your heart rate is not as high. Leave the long-distance and faster-paced runs until the weekend, when you have more time to recover before going to bed. – Katherine Marriott
  • Normally, your brain secretes the sleep hormone melatonin, your body temperature drops and your body prepares for sleep. This is why sleep specialists recommend no vigorous exercise in the evening. (Hint, hint.) Milk and bananas provide a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into melatonin, as well as calcium and magnesium which can be helpful for some insomniacs. – Linda Zack
  • It can be due to your body temperature being too high. Try having a cool shower after your run. – Nessie
  • Change the time you run. – Night Nurse
  • If it's really bad, a Nytol tablet does the job. – mark jacobs
  • I had a similar problem if I ran in the evenings. I was physically quite tired, but my brain was in overdrive. A friend of mine recommended a herbal remedy called passiflora. It’s not a herbal tranquilliser as such, but it does allow your brain to switch off. You can generally buy it from a good herbalist or online. – Nick Kirby
  • Do you eat before or after your run? When I trained for the London Marathon I used to run at about the same time each evening, and then would have my tea – and then couldn't sleep. When I changed the order of things, having tea at 5pm at my desk, followed by a run at 7-8ish, I slept better. I also reduced my mileage and intensity, and that helped too. – muddy
  • Try not eating dinner after a hard session at night. Take all your calorific requirement on board during the day, and then only have fluids and a recovery snack between the session and sleep. At least then your body isn't trying to process a stomach's worth of food as you're trying to sleep. – Yanner
  • Watch telly all night. – Coops
  • Run harder – then you'll be knackered! – desk jockey
  • Over the last week I've been trying a herbal remedy called valerian, and so far I've slept through 'til morning. – Cinders
  • The more I need or want to sleep, the greater the likelihood of sleep deprivation. I've just had to accept it, like tendonitis or my inability to run up hills! I think flexible sleep patterns are for some of us just a fact of life – accepting our bodies' ability to "catch-up" when they're given half the chance. – lazy bones
  • You're probably getting more sleep than you think. The main thing is not to get too strung up about it: you just stop yourself from sleeping by worrying about it al the time. Sometimes quality is better than quantity. – Little biscuit
  • I suffer sleep difficulties all the time, usually because I can't switch off my head. If you're thinking about too much stuff, try writing it all down. – Rosie
  • I find a glass of red wine does the trick, though camomile tea can be good, too. Take a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil, then off to a freshly-made bed. Audio books are great to nod off to, so try that. And, according to feng shui, plants with large leaves (like my swiss cheese plant) in your bedroom promote good sleep. – Lyra O'K
  • I've had to agree with my body never to run after 4pm if I want to sleep that night. I think it's something to do with cooling down and hydration. If I were to do a long run at 8pm, I'd literally wake up every few minutes during the night, hot and thirsty. – Tim
  • I train at the same times as you, and used to have the same problem after harder runs. The cause was muscle inflammation, quickly cured by some ibuprofen. Although these days I tend to opt for a cold beer before bedtime, which seems to do the trick! – Harry Notter
  • For muscles that go solid or painful overnight, my rheumatology consultant suggested a low dose of amitriptylene. Milk and paracetamol with codeine also does the trick; paracetamol is easier on the tum than ibuprofen. – Stickless
  • Avoid all sources of caffeine from the moment you wake up. That means no coffee, obviously, but also no tea (including green tea and Earl Grey) except if it's naturally caffeine-free like Redbush or a herb or fruit tea. No to chocolate too. Also, avoid all alcohol. Although alcohol may seem to relax you and knock you out for sleep, it does have well-documented disruptive events on sleep patterns. It may seem drastic, but it's what I need to do to get a good night's kip. Good luck! – Cumulus
  • Magnesium deficiency can cause nervousness that prevents sleep. You need to take it regularly to really see the benefit; go to a health store and get the proper stuff. Magnesium-rich foods include kelp, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses and brewer's yeast. – Wobbly-Bits
  • If you can't sleep, get out of bed. Do something not too stimulating mentally or physically, eg reading a book, in another room until you feel sleepy, and then go back to bed. Also, no reading, working or watching TV in bed. You need to train your brain that your bedroom is for sleep. – Stumpy2
  • If you run at night and rehydrate afterwards, that makes you need to pee in the night. So... run earlier or at another time, or go to bed later. – Robert Russell
  • Watch England play football. – thunder cat


Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.


Previous article
Reader To Reader: Post-Marathon
Next article
Reader To Reader: Help Me Sleep!

training misc, sleep
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.