Napping After Running

Woman sleeping on sofa
Distance running can cause you to feel sluggish afterward. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Recuperating after exercise is important. It allows your muscles to recover and your body to re-energize. Whether sleeping after a run is beneficial is questionable, and no hard scientific evidence exists that argues for or against taking a nap after exercise. The important thing is to allot enough time between runs for your body to completely recover. If you feel sluggish after a run, it's best to listen to your body and get some sleep if you can.

Distance Running

Endurance exercising such as distance running has a different effect on your body than short, intense exercising, such as sprinting. It is not uncommon for a marathon runner in training to feel especially tired after a long run, or in general during the training period. According to Dr. Alex Chediak, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 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 exercises. Chediak notes, however, that this theory has not been substantiated with hard scientific evidence.

Napping Post-Run

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. Avoid napping for more than an hour, unless 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.

Scheduling Runs

If you tend to become tired regularly after a run and have a difficult time dealing with the fatigue, you should take measures to schedule your runs. It would be unwise to go for a run immediately before work or school because the fatigue can affect your performance on the job or in the classroom. Instead, schedule your run for either early in the morning, at a time that would allow you to go back to sleep after you're done, or during a time that allows you to complete your run and nap for 30 minutes to an hour afterward.

Running Before Bedtime

Scheduling a run right before bedtime is not ideal. Aerobic exercise raises your core body temperature, which makes it more difficult for you body to sleep through the night. Not until your core temperature begins to lower back to its normal range is your body truly ready for sleep, both mentally and physically.

Avoiding Sleepiness

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. 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.

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