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Should I Feel Like Sleeping After Exercise?

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/31/2011

Is it normal to want to sleep after exercise? You might be asking yourself this if you have trouble staying awake after a grueling workout. Find out if this condition is normal and what you can do about it.

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    Sleep and Exercise

    Sleep and exercise are a funny thing. If you do just enough exercise, your body will stay awake for hours. But if you do a lot of strenuous working out, your body will get so tired out that you’ll feel like drifting off to sleep.

    When you go for a leisurely run, mix some cardio training in with your strength training or hit the mat for a Pilates routine, you give yourself just enough of an energy boost to make it through the rest of the day. Chances are, you’re not going to feel sleepy after such a workout.

    But when you do a long, hard workout, you push your body to its limits, and when you stop, you feel like sleeping. How does that work?

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    Cytokines and Sleep

    As it turns out, when you do a lot of running or weight lifting, your body releases two types of cytokines – immune system hormones that induce sleep. According to a New York Times report, two cytokines are responsible for this action: Interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis alpha.

    Your body isn’t as likely to release these hormones if you are not stressing yourself to the max. But the same thing happens when you get sick – your body releases these hormones as a way to encourage you to rest for a while.

    Thus, when you work out very hard, your body tells you it’s time to rest up by making you sleepy with these secretions.

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    Who Is Likely to Feel These Effects?

    Is it normal to want to sleep after exercise when you’re just a regular exerciser? Chances are, probably not. Normal people who work out 30 to 45 minutes per day on a cardio/strength training/Yoga/Pilates circuit are more likely to experience a small boost of energy after a workout than feelings of drowsiness.

    But if you’re an athlete training for a marathon, muscle contest or other sporting event, and you spend hours lifting weights and push yourself to the max during cardio workouts, you’ll likely feel like hitting the sack for a few hours or overnight. Since you stressed your body to its limit, it knows you need to rest up and secretes those cytokines to encourage you to do so.

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    How to Feel Less Tired

    Unless you’re a training athlete, you can take some preventative measures to not feel so groggy after a workout. Here are a couples tips to accomplish this:

    • Exercise at a different time. Most times, you’re supposed to exercise several hours before bed. But if you feel tired, exercise just an hour or two before bed so you can take advantage of your sleepiness.
    • Try not to nap during the day. This way, if your body is truly tired, you’ll also want to fall asleep, not just lie in bed awake with a tired body.