Courtney asks: I have having trouble falling asleep the night after I run long distances. I run in the morning, and I only have coffee prior to running; I don’t have caffeine after the run. Still, I can’t seem to fall asleep that night. It feels like I can’t get my heart rate to drop down to sleeping mode. Could this be a hydration issue? Or is it just an everlasting high from completing a good long run?
This is an intriguing question. If you are eating normal meals and drinking enough fluid to keep your urine a pale yellow color, like lemonade, your sleep troubles are not likely to be a hydration issue. People who run regularly usually drop their heart rates pretty quickly after exercise.
I remember having difficulty getting to sleep when I was playing adult-league hockey. We had late night games after the youth leagues had left the ice. The adrenergic effects from the excitement and vigorous exercise made it difficult to get to sleep and even more difficult to get up for rounds in the morning. The adrenergic effects of exercise that make you feel “jacked up,” as we used to call it, can keep you awake, much like caffeine in the evening for many people.
I could not find a good scholarly article to refer you to for more detailed information, but my best guess is that you are maintaining the “everlasting high” for a longer time than most of us. The usual advice we give to afternoon or evening runners who have your symptoms is to run in the morning. Since you already do that, your choices seem limited to cutting back your long run distance or living with it. If you are rested and ready to go the next day and you are not having any chest pressure or undue fatigue while running or after running, I see no harm in continuing your current running schedule. I wish I had a more definitive answer for you.