Long Distance Sleep Witches & Wizards Spread Your Wisdom

On Wednesday I went on a 209km audax. 10.5 hours at an average rate of tempo (HRM stats) TSS 403, 45 year old male, 50% Strong headwind and 2500m elevation. Wet and between 0-5 degrees Celsius. So a good, hard ride for me.

I am interested (as I am every time I do a long, hard effort) as to why I don’t sleep well that same night. Most would say you should sleep like a baby. That’s not the case. I sleep very lightly and wake frequently. On this ride, my nutrition and hydration were bang on, so no issues there.

What’s happening hormonally, chemically, psychologically, physiologically etc?

I would appreciate your ideas as I aim to speed up my recovery which surely be suffering due to poor sleep which is generally fine the next night.

I appreciate this may not matter for multi-day events as I’ll only be snatching naps here and there.

Many thanks.

could be down to high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine


Did you use a lot of caffeine on the ride? That’d be my first thought.

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+1 here for cortisol.


Caffeine intake is no different to a normal day really. If I need something hot on a cold day I tend to go for something like hot chocolate rather than coffee.

I should add: I experience head fuzziness after a long drive.* and I need time to ‘come down’ before I hit the sack, because I’m buzzing from the concentration and work my eyes and brain must be doing. I get this feeling on long Cycle rides.

  • Long drives in the UK and in the USA are two different things :wink:
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Just based on n=my friends, this is very very common. More the rule than the exception. I can even feel my legs spinning while I lay still in bed.


Assuming it is due cortisol, quick googling reveals

Never thought much about it, just suffered through. But probably will try it out in coming outdoor season

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I’m keen on natural options so I really appreciate the recommendation.

Especially the ‘Smell of the horse’ bit :grinning:

To be honest, can’t recommend it personally – as said, always took it as fact of life. But thanks for creating the topic, now that we think about it, maybe we can do something :slight_smile:

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Yeah same here. After a hard day, especially if the workout is in the afternoon or later in the evening, I don’t sleep well. The TR Podcast has talked about the reasoning behind this but I don’t remember what episode it was but there is reasoning behind and as mentioned above is very common.


200k doesn’t do that to me at all. I have been surprised after a 1200k (which featured 6 hours sleep) that I didn’t really sleep any extra afterwards. Not really an issue though. But there have been a couple 600k’s where driving home was a real adventure. One time I stopped for a short nap and woke up 8 hours later.


This happens to me after evening races. As some others have mentioned it’s pretty common.

I don’t really have any tips per se that aren’t just general good sleep hygiene (dark room, screen time, etc).

I do expect it though and try to give myself permission to sleep poorly. As in not getting (or trying not to get) anxious about the fact I’m not sleeping which creates a strong positive feedback loop.


I think your last point is very important. I used to have trouble sleeping before events. I always remind myself that just lying there has almost all of the same benefits as sleeping. Then I go to sleep. Maybe that’s not true, but I’m sure it beats lying there fretting about not getting sleep. I think the other thing that happened is I found out I can function pretty well on a bike with very little sleep. That takes a lot of stress off. Give me 90 minutes and I’m good


So helpful everyone. Thank you. I’m trying to remember whether it was a Nordic audax organisation that banned driving after van event for 12+ hours. I’ve driven after all night rides and I’ve had to pull over and cat nap.

Not for 8 hours though :joy: That made me laugh @eekeller

That’s been my experience, in any case. I function much better after a night with 2-3 hours of sleep and a lot of restless laying about than I’d really expect. At least as long as it doesn’t happen too many days in a row. It’s definitely not fun though.

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When I have done full IM races, I always sleep like crap that night…dunno what the root cause is - cortisol, adrenaline or whatever, but seems pretty common that after long days of endurance activity, many people don’t sleep well that night.

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Remember that sleeping like a baby means you wake up every 2 hours, crying, hungry and with a load in your diaper.
I prefer to sleep like the dead.


most people with normal sleep patterns wake up every 90 minutes*, it’s just that they don’t know it. It’s best to aim for multiples of 90 minutes of sleep. This is one thing I have learned from randonneuring that is useful to me in my daily life.

*hopefully not crying

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