Why can’t I sleep after a long run?

When arriving home from a long run, take off your running shoes for the trail after an extended, hot shower and settle in a sizeable carb-laden meal. 

Afterward, you creep into bed and feel your sore muscles relax on the mattress. You’ve imagined the moment all day; however, when you shut your eyes, you’re still seeing the trail in your thoughts, and instead of settling into a restful, quiet sleep, you are struggling to sleep. If you’re a distance runner, you’ve probably had this feeling many times. 

What’s the reason? Why can’t I get to sleep after a long run, you may be asking yourself, especially when your body and mind are in no way exhausted from all the miles you’ve run walking?

Why can’t I sleep after a long run?

Image Source: time.com

To find the reason for this common problem, we consult with our friend Dr. Abhinav Singh (MD, FAASM), a Medical Review Specialist for SleepFoundation.org and Medical Director of the Indiana Sleep Center, and the solution seems to boil down to two surprising simple elements. The first is that the system of your brain is at full speed throughout the day.

Singh explains that strenuous exercise stimulates your adrenergic or sympathetic nervous system. Singh states that exercise could cause insomnia when you sleep too close. Also, the adrenaline and focus you need for hours to keep running at a high level are functions of your sympathetic nervous system, more often referred to as the “fight or fight or flight” response. 

It dilates your pupils and raises your heart and breathing rate, which is ideal when trying to set the new Fastest Known Time but not as helpful for those who want to move in your Land of Nod.

There is a difference between feeling exhausted and collapsing vs. unwinding and relaxing. Being more tightly wound can create a competitive edge in the race. However, it could be accompanied by more trouble getting off. If that fits you perfectly, try these running relaxation techniques before bed to activate that relaxation effect. 

Let’s suppose you’re an expert in relaxation methods, a Zen road runner if you prefer, and you’re having difficulty giving up after a long-distance race what is it? According to Singh, a simple physiological response might be at fault: the body temperature.


After years of trying to figure the whole thing out, Mike knows that exercising increases my core temperature, heart rate, and sweating. Also, it can have an excitation influence on my endocrine and nervous systems. The more vigorous the exercise and the duration of the competition or workout is, the longer I’ve been in this ecstatic or aroused state. Two hormones that seem to influence sleep disturbances after a workout are cortisol and norepinephrine.

Cortisol Level

Cortisol levels rise in response to stress, so increased cortisol levels are a normal exercise consequence. The rise in cortisol isn’t always alarming. It is part of the stimulus to training that causes positive adaption. However, if my workload for training is excessive and I’m having trouble recovering from my workouts that involve swimming or cycling, the cortisol levels that are constantly elevated could be a contributing factor to the issue.

Image Source: medicalnewstoday.com

On a day-to-day basis, cortisol levels vary naturally in a rhythmic cycle that is high at around 30 minutes after waking up and then gradually decreases during the day. This means I’m typically in the lower end of the cycle before I go to bed in the evening. An endurance race that lasts for a whole day, such as the running course through Cobesus Lake in Livonia, NY, four times in a total of 20 miles, 73 miles of running, or the Half Iron Man I do by myself in a day can cause cortisol levels to rise and not in sync with the average cortisol levels in my daily routine and can cause my sleeplessness.

Final Words

In the course of 10 or 15 hours, an ice bath is sure to assist in lowering the body temperature, but it might not be practical or seem soothing to you before going to bed. There are, however, alternatives to cool yourself effectively after an exercise:

  • Take as long as you can between the end of your run and bedtime.
  • Do not drink alcohol following your run, as it could dehydrate and increase your body temperature.
  • Hydrate yourself with cool drinks such as excellent teas like peppermint, which will trick your body into feeling cool(opens in a new tab).
  • Chew ice cubes.
  • Avoid highly spicy foods, fat-rich foods, and those with complex carbohydrates since they are more challenging to digest and can raise your body temperature by the clock (opens in a new tab).
  • Take the time to take a cold or cool shower.
  • Apply ice packs to your legs to lessen swelling and help keep you cool.
  • Switch to loose-fitting cotton clothes.
  • Set up the air conditioning and fans at home and inside your room.

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Mike Anderson
By Mike Anderson

Hi, I'm Mike Anderson and I love camping. In fact, I love it so much that I've decided to write about it. I hope to provide you with all the information you need to get started in camping yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I'll do my best to help you out.

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