Recuperating after exercise is important. It allows your muscles to recover and your body to re-energize. A nap following a run may be one of the best ways to induce this recovery. If you feel sluggish after a run, it's best to listen to your body and get some sleep if you can.
Endurance exercise, such as distance running, has a different effect on your body than short, intense exercise, such as sprinting. It's not uncommon for a marathon runner in training to feel especially tired after a long run, or in general during the training period.
One possible explanation as to why marathon runners sleep more than average when training is because of hormones that interact with the immune system and prompt sleepiness. These hormones, called cytokines, are released at a higher rate during endurance type exercise.
Science Supports Napping
Research confirms that napping supports recovery following a run. In a 2010 issue of the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, six men participated in 90-minute endurance training sessions followed by a 90-minute daytime nap an hour or two after the training.
The researchers measured the participants' sleep patterns and found that the naps reflected a great duration of slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep. During slow-wave sleep, your body builds up energy and repairs itself.
If you decide to take a nap after your run, rehydrate and stretch your muscles first. Without stretching and proper hydration, your muscles could begin to cramp as you lie still during your nap. If you feel your muscles twitching as you begin to rest, drink plenty of fluids and shake out your muscles.
Napping can definitely help if you ran very early in the morning and interrupted your normal sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should sleep for seven to nine hours per night, while teenagers should sleep for 8-1/2 to about nine hours per night.
Running Before Bedtime
Scheduling a run right before bedtime is not a problem as once thought. Previous theory suggested that aerobic exercise raises your core body temperature, which makes it more difficult for you body to sleep through the night.
But a 2013 survey performed by the National Sleep Foundation determined that exercising close to bedtime did not have a negative impact on sleep quality, including time to fall asleep and staying asleep.
If you wish counter sleepiness after a run, take a cold shower or soak your feet in ice water. This can be especially refreshing during warmer months. The cold water can invigorate your system and keep it from crashing.
Ensure that you eat plenty of healthful foods after a run to replenish your carbohydrate levels, as low sugar levels can also lead to feeling fatigued and sleepy. Hydrate well to support good energy and recovery.
Finally, consider the possibility that you are running too much, both in distance per run and in the number of runs you perform during the week. Try cutting down to see whether your energy levels improve after a run.