Sleeping terribly on rest days

Hi everyone,

Wonder if anyone else has any experience of or fixes for something that is bugging me a bit lately.

By way of background I’m currently in a mid volume long-distance triathlon plan, ahead of an Ironman in July. So the volume is quite high – around 100 CTL – which is more than usual for me but not loads more.

Since I started this plan (and training more consistently, probably), I’ve found my sleep really disrupted on the night after a rest day. Anecdotally, I find it harder to get to sleep and then wake up more often, as well as feeling less fresh in the morning. This seems to be there in the data, too: my Whoop score is often lower, despite having done less, though my HRV and RHR are not massively changed so I presume it’s mostly a function of the bad sleeping.

Among other things, this is annoying. I’ve got much better about my sleep and have the routine down fairly consistently but those Monday night difficulties can be tough and throw out other nights. I’m also sure there’s some physiological consequences – even if not directly from the lack of sleep, from the stress and disruption it causes.

I can only presume this is because I’m less tired, because I’ve done less. And it also might be because I try not to eat a huge amount less, partly because of all the recommendations against doing so on the podcast.

Does anyone have any great tips? Rest days for me at the moment are usually a mobility session, plus sorting out things I might have neglected through the week. As such I don’t do anything that might be called a workout – should I? Is a ‘recovery spin’ a good idea? Should I be scheduling in a walk in the same way I would a run? Or am I just doomed?

Tl;dr: I can’t sleep the night after rest days and am wondering how to fix that.

Thanks!

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Do you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, but once asleep, you’re good? Or is it that your sleep is interrupted throughout the night? When you do workout, is it typically in the evening or “somewhat” close to bedtime?

I don’t think I have any earth shattering advice, considering I rarely sleep well on the best of days… I’m mostly curious about the advice of others too!

Bit of both, really! Both taking a while to fall asleep, and not feeling as tired, and then waking up through the night, and also just generally feeling like the quality of sleep isn’t as good, in that I wake up less rested.

I used to sleep pretty badly every day until I upped my training volume, too… So it might well be that.

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Definitely. Not just my sleep is impacted but the entire day I feel off if I don’t work out in the morning.

For me it isn’t residual fatigue. It’s something about messing up my rhythm that my body does not like. I think part of it is that since I sleep in a little on my rest day, maybe I’ve gotten more sleep than I am used to so I’m not as tired that night.

Just wanted to say that you are not alone!

I have trouble sleeping at the best of times, often difficulty falling asleep.

I do the majority of my riding in the evenings as that’s when I have time. However, it also helps me fall asleep - it quiets my mind, and I’m physically tired so happy to lay still and do nothing or just read for a bit.

This means on days I don’t train I sometimes have more difficulty falling asleep. To solve this without destroying the concept of a rest day, I’ll try and go for a casual walk in the evening instead.

The other time I’ll run into this is when overreaching. Difficulty with sleeping is an early sign for me, and sometimes it’s more noticeable on the days off than training days.

Have you tried sleep aids, which could help you on all days, but some in particular may help with restlessness during sleep. A weighted blanket is critical for me. Sleep masks helped me in the past, no light in the room, even from clocks. Lower the thermostat to mid-60’s. For extra credit, an Ooler to cool the mattress down. These may help settle you and get into a deeper sleep.

I’ve had a similar issue. I think part of it comes down to routine- I’m already pretty prone to anxiety and sleep issues so it doesn’t take a lot to throw me off there. Also seem to get weird achy/restless legs.
I don’t often have days entirely off any more, but when I do I’ve found walking seems to alleviate most of the physical symptoms. I expect something like an easy spin or yoga session would achieve the same thing- as long as you’re not entirely sedentary. In any case fecovery days seem to be a really personal thing, so it’s worth playing around with to see what works for you.

Regarding diet, I don’t think you necessarily need to consume the same amount of total calories as a training day as long as your overall energy balance is sufficient to support recovery. My understanding is that the podcast comments were directed more at those trying to lose weight by creating a big calorie deficit on off days- in that case you can be limiting the resources your body needs to ‘rebuild’ and adapt. A shift towards more protein and fat on these days may also be beneficial for sleep quality- I personally find high amounts of carbs (relative to what I’m actually using) can make me feel a bit ‘wired.’

Yes, this is totally my issue, too. Often can’t sleep well after complete rest days. High volume athlete. I don’t really have a fix for this apart from not taking complete rest days.

Do you sleep in on your rest days?

For me this is my #1 issue. If I sleep in a little too long it really screws me for the rest of the week to get to bed early to do a morning workout the next day. Endless cycle

You sound like you’re eating plenty. I’m recently finding that my trouble sleeping after hard days is carb related. Usually my legs are feeling tired and restless which keeps me awake. If I pound a bunch of carbs that ‘pain’ tends to go away and allows me to relax

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Spot on.

Just for completeness’s sake: I stayed a bit more active this week, and it worked out nicely. I slept better, felt more recovered, and everything else besides. (It was actually a ride because I had to go somewhere, but I’ll be walking more regularly.)

I also just noticed an interesting thread on Reddit saying much the same: https://www.reddit.com/r/whoop/comments/u70o85/small_workouts_on_resting_days_improved_recovery/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

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