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  1. #1
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    New question here. Sleeping problems after a long ride - any advice?

    I've read a bit about this online and there but no 'solutions' suggested that I'm aware of. I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced it or can suggest a root cause?

    So, I normally ride for 4-5 up to 7 hours on a saturday or sunday, often both, on or off-road in a fairly hilly area. I'll work as hard as I can over that time but I'm certainly more an enduro than XC-race pace rider. I'm usually back for a good post-ride meal by 3-4pm.

    I always struggle to get good, deep sleep afterwards. It's always been this way. My heart rate is elevated or at least feels 'stronger' for average 8-12hrs after the ride and although tired, dropping off is tricky and I wake up at a minor sound, so I'm not sleeping properly when I do drop off.

    This effects recovery and the next day's ride, although I'm getting good at managing it and riding out of tiredness.

    I think if I can crack this my fitness could take a big leap fwd and I can start condsidering mulit-day events with confidence.

    If it's related, I'm mid 30s, a std lean cyclist build, been riding bikes most of my life, resting HR is around 48-50 and max is naturally a bit higher than average, hill-rep-max tested at 205 BPM at age 26 (not a state I'd like to be in again!) and not sure where it is now. I drink coffee, 2-3 cups in the mornings. I'm generally a light sleeper but have no problems on non-riding week-days.

    Any suggestions or experience that anyone can share? Thanks..

  2. #2
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    I have the same problem. So far the best treatment I've found is a glass of wine.
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  3. #3
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    Trust me, I've tried that!

    Beer, wine, single malt.. any excuse.. it helps but not significantly - unless I drank enough to 'knock myself out' and I'm keen to stay off the drink for reasons of recovery / next day's riding.

  4. #4
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    High cortisol/stress from overload. You're fighting nature!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by james-o View Post
    Trust me, I've tried that!

    Beer, wine, single malt.. any excuse.. it helps but not significantly - unless I drank enough to 'knock myself out' and I'm keen to stay off the drink for reasons of recovery / next day's riding.
    This

    I still sometimes wind up waking up about 3-5 hours later and not being able to sleep.

  6. #6
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    Hm, I had a sleeping issue because my legs were twitching. People on this subforum suggested lack of protein after ride, so I started drinking 80% Whey after rides. Sleeping like a baby now.

    I would suggest for you a lot of recovery drinks / foods. Magnesium, salts, protein. I believe your body is trying to repair the damage you did riding, but there is a lack of supplies in the bloodstream. One good meal is not enough to recover all the lost electrolytes, fix muscle damage, etc..
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  7. #7
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    Melatonin.

    http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/melatonin-000315.htm

    Works for me. I take 2mg 1 hr before bed on days where recovery are critical. I fall asleep faster and the sleep is much deeper. The only drawback for me is that it is hard to get moving in the mornings.

  8. #8
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    Have good light meal around 4-1 carb-protein about an hour before your ride, eat some during if your going longer than 2-3 hours, and a good 4-1 meal within an hour after your ride.
    Drink plenty of fluids way before, during, and after your ride and start to slow up before bed so you don't have to get up to pee.
    Asprin, unlike other pain relievers, will help to clear toxins from your muscles so take a couple before bed and the pain relieve coulld help with rest also.
    A glass of milk contains whey(fast digesting, gone within a few hours) and casein (slow digesting) protiens. Not only has milk before bed been shown to help with falling asleep, but the casein protein will be available protein for your muscles to recover throughout most of your sleep.
    Cottage cheese is the best real food source for casein.
    A nice hot bath or shower before bed always relaxes me and helps me get a deeper sleep.
    Try to get in a couple of light rides during the week.
    Last edited by theMeat; 07-04-2011 at 11:14 AM.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by james-o View Post
    I always struggle to get good, deep sleep afterwards. It's always been this way. My heart rate is elevated or at least feels 'stronger' for average 8-12hrs after the ride and although tired, dropping off is tricky and I wake up at a minor sound, so I'm not sleeping properly when I do drop off.
    I get this if I do not re-hydrate properly.

    Edit:
    That means fluids and electrolyte replacement as someone mentioned above.

  10. #10
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    Thanks..

    gbell, I tried nytol, I think it's similar, I only needed a 1/2 tablet but it does make you feel a bit dopey in the morning and I didn't want to rely on it. It's an option though.

    Noted the advice about fluids and protein. I always eat a can of tuna and pasta or similar post-ride and a meal in the evening but maybe it's not enough; I'm probably guilty of not drinking enough fluids at times too.

    Will try the milk and whey drinks tips, I heard chocolate milk was good but I thought the food I ate post-ride was enough so haven't tried that.

    I'll also try the aspirins too after that if the protein / fluid alone doesn't fix it.

  11. #11
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    Keep in mind that the hardships your body endures is far greater that we are built for. You know all the documentaries that show ancient cultures, especially Australian Aborigines. They almost never run or do any hard exertions. They walk for hours, yes, but walking is a natural energy conserving process (google it, we are very energy efficient at walking).

    What we do with biking is EXTREME. And if you do hours of hard XC terrain, going up, going down, this stuff our body has problems with.

    You need truckloads of good protein. Liters of water and minerals. Probably lots of good carbs to get raw energy.

    You can train your body to accept the punishment better, but that again is just temporary state of your muscles and bones. Ask any pro biker what happens when he does not train for just a few weeks. I don't mean that he should go to McDonalds and be couch potato - just stop vigorous training. He will drop to being normal person pretty fast. Cause that's how we are designed.

    So yea, a can of tuna won't help you.
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  12. #12
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    This is very common, simply put your overreaching on your ride that day even if you've done that type of effort for years your body is struggling to addapt to the stress you've placed on it hence the high or thumping heart rate, and as said high cortisol levels making it hard to stay asleep.
    Things that have helped me reduce the likely hood of this occuring was an increase in fitness by spending more time on the bike at a harder pace but spread out over the week rather than trying to squeeze the bulk of my training into a big day or 2 of lower intensity
    resulting in said state only to go out the next day and dig myself into a deeper hole, making recovery so slow that l'd barly recovered by the next w/end's ride let alone addapted and improved.

    Other things that help after long hard races if l have overreached to the point of sleep disturbances apart from hydration/electrolites and nutrition while riding is
    magnesium just before bed to help relax that thumping heart and twitching muscles
    asprin this really helps if the heart is still thumping

    Now my problem is usually not falling asleep but staying asleep, so if l wake up really early l'll take melatonin but if l wake late that night or early morning l'll take tryptophan as melatonin taken too late makes me a little groggy the next day.

    I have pretty much solved this issue now except for really really long or hard races but the things l and others have listed can reduce and improve the problem but they are just bandaids and the root of your problem needs to be addressed,
    either a much much shorter but slightly harder ride saturday focusing on power, FT, LT etc allowing better sleep and recovery to go out sunday and focus on endurance otherwise you'll just keep banging your head up agaist this wall like l did for many many years and getting nowhere fast.
    Now l simply avoid training rides that will put me into this state as they were just counter productive and not really adding to my goals which were higher power output and better endurance.

  13. #13
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    Personally, I have found that eating/hydrating well, a glass of wine, and melatonin all help. So those suggestions made above are all good. The wine actually can hurt your quality of sleep, supposedly, but if I stick to one glass I feel like I am fine. Taking electrolytes (in pill format) has also helped me minimize hamstring cramps at night after long or tough rides--which obviously helps because everyone knows that hamstring cramps will wake you really quickly.

    Another suggestion when you have such a long ride like that is to start early. If you are finishing at 8:00 p.m., I doubt you are going to get to sleep anytime soon if you are anything like me. It takes me a while to wind down. Even a 1.5 hammer fest after work on the shop road ride can often keep up awake late--especially when it is hot out.

    If you are really overheated after such a long ride, getting in a cool pool or using other ways to get your body temperature down may also help. An ice cold river for 10 minutes does wonders for leg recovery.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by spsoon View Post
    I get this if I do not re-hydrate properly.

    Edit:
    That means fluids and electrolyte replacement as someone mentioned above.
    Same here.

  15. #15
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    I do ride mid week, 2 2hr brisk rides early am usually, and an hour or so easy recovery ride on mondays if I can / need it. I rarely ride hard in the evenings due to the sleeping issues.

    So I thought I was fairly well tuned in to what I needed to get the best out of the miles I do (rather than specific training, adding a few sessions / rides to maximise the natural fitness I get from 'just riding') but the comments about being over-stretched make sense - I always aim to come back on the edge of breaking point to feel like I've done the ride justice so this 'done-in' feeling was my sign of having done enough to be gaining fitness / endurance - except I doubt I have gained much.

    I've been out and bought some skimmed milk, chocolate powder and casien protein and made some recovery drink for after this mornings ride. Looking at the protein content + reccomended doses of the powder I can see how an 80g tin of tuna + pasta post-ride and some chicken with evening meal wasn't enough to fix legs with 100+ miles in them.

    Now the aim is to keep the miles the same, the pace the same but feel like I'm relaxed and comfortable afterwards as a sign that I'm on top of my riding, rather than the big sunday ride being a breaker-test..

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blitz View Post
    High cortisol/stress from overload. You're fighting nature!
    Just read up on cortisol - I learned something today.

    This may explain the link between more riding early-season getting me to a point where I'm able to ride long enough for it to run me down in the summer, the cortisol has an effect on the immune system. I've just got over a bad month of zero-energy and brink-of-cold feeling that followed a few weeks of fast 115 mile road rides and 7hr+ mtb ss rides (that were at my limit of ability really). A lack of good sleep just makes it worse.
    Cortisol is also there to help extract the good stuff out of what I'm eating, but I'm not fueling up on enough of the right stuff so it's floating around doing no good. Add some dehydration to the mix and my biking lifestyle suddenly looks a bit less healthy than I thought.

    Thanks for the pointers and comments everyone.. this kind of info should help me ride better.

  17. #17
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    I am very happy with Alteril. Solid sleep with no groggy feeling in the morning. Your mileage may vary.

  18. #18
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    Understood, i would make some changes in your equimpment minor seat and bar adjustments for starters. it promotes positive change through altering mechanics. go easy and comfortable at first and feel a differance, i wouldnt push a differance just feel one then suplpiment
    One Fast 16 oz Beer or 3 oz Vodka with a freash smoke via Real tobacco "no additives" .

    well that's what i like anyways.

  19. #19
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    Real food like tuna or pasta cannot be digested quickly enough to fill the immediate needs your muscles have after your rides. It is the whole glycogen window thing that lasts 20-40 minutes after hard exercise. This is why chocolate milk, yogurt, PB&J work so well. Without it your muscles just eat themselves.

    Now do you see why you can't rest?
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  20. #20
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    It's normal.........if you read weight lifting forums, it's the same for all intense exercise. The smae chemicals released from doing intense training that make you feel good and alert keep you up at night.

    It's also a sign of over-training.

    I combat this by not exercising too close to bed time, or else it's a sweaty, toss and turny night for me. It's funny because I am exhausted too, but still can't sleep.

    Save the intense workouts for the morning to give your body sometime to re-adjust before bedtime. If that's not possible then just accept it, being annoyed trying to sleep keeps you from sleeping as well.

  21. #21
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    Also, sleeping with the temperature as cool as possible, open the windows, or use the AC, etc., and you'll wake up less at night.

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    Thanks Mike - I though 'proper' food protein was better than shakes. Another change to make, it's good to know there's so many areas I can improve my recovery rates. I thought I was just a bit weak : )

    This weekend I did my local loop SS on saturday, a steady 7hrs or so without hitting the wall, and had some extra protein, a chocolate milkshake with low fat milk and casien protein on return at 3.30pm, then another shake and aspirin + a magnesium+calcuim supplement with the evening meal. Still had a higher heart rate but it wasn't hammering as much as normal and I slept ok. I felt better overall and woke up feeling unusually good.

    So I did a hilly road century+ Sunday within 10-15 mins of my 'on form' time and then couldn't sleep too well last night.. Ah well, there's some progress, I couldn't have done those 2 rides back to back before. So these tips do work, for anyone else with the same issues.

    Basically I think I need to slow down / ride less to get stronger, knowing that because i can do these longer rides doesn't mean I should be doing them as often, yet. Recovery seems more important now.

    (Makes me think, just how do Tour Divide racers do what they do?? Hats off to those guys, their legs must made of something very different to mine! Legends..)

  23. #23
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    Stretching + cold shower + back rub from my wife and I am out. If you're not married you can easily do the first 2.

    I know it sounds crazy. But I've been taking cold showers every single day for the last year and feel pretty awesome. I still get insomnia sometimes- but now it is only a few days a month instead of 3-4 days a week.

  24. #24
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    Is that a cold shower before going to bed?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by james-o View Post
    Is that a cold shower before going to bed?
    yeah. Within 30 minutes of going to bed. I also take cold showers in the morning- except for Sundays (give myself a little break).

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