Sleepless After a Marathon

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 | By Hal Higdon
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Got a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


Is it unusual to experienced insomnia the night following a race? Two marathons under my belt, the last one the Charleston Marathon, and after each race I simply cannot get to sleep despite my post-race fatigue. It drags on for several days, which I suspect impacts my recovery. I don’t want to take sleeping pills. What do I do?


I suspect your sleeplessness following a marathon is because your body may have crossed the finish line, but your mind is still replaying the race: the anticipatory excitement at the start, the crowds cheering your every step, the incredible high as you finally cross the finish line, ending a journey that began 18 weeks or more before. If you indulged in a post-race eating binge, that may impact your recovery even more. Plus your muscles are sore, the healing process just begun. Little wonder that insomnia strikes. Nevertheless, I don't think staying awake at night impairs your recovery that much, as long as you are horizontal and don't get frantic about the "sleep" you supposedly are missing. Running a marathon is a sensory experience that gets us all wound up, so don’t fight it. Good sleeps should not be too far off.

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