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  • Self Managing sleep problems

    Good afternoon Docs,

    I am looking for some advice on managing early awakening insomnia I experience after I strength train.

    I generally run 10-20 miles a week and don't experience problems on running days. If I try to add in strength training or swap running out for strength training things start getting weird. A common thing I run into is on a day where I do deadlifts, maybe a 3 sets of 5 at RPE 7 (after warming up) for example that night I will shoot awake with my heart racing at 2am and can't fall back asleep unless I eat something, sometimes it takes me 1-2 hours to go back to sleep if I ever fall back asleep. My normal wake up time is 5:45am.

    I've read on some of your forum responses that having poor sleep while strength training is more of a sign of sleep deprivation, mood disorder, parasomnia, things of that nature, so I investigated these avenues fairly thoroughly.

    -I usually get 6.5 to 7.5 hours in bed since July I have been taking benedryl every night to help fall asleep/fall back asleep. I also use a sleep tracker-when I exclude strength training I am getting good sleep.
    -I have been treated for anxiety since July, my mental health is feeling great lately
    -I have been checked for sleep apnea. I do grind my teeth pretty heavily and wear a nightguard. While bruxism is a parasomnia it isn't really causing problems for me beyond some jaw pain/clicking and popping from the night guard.
    -I had a transient hyper-thyroid problem that was possibly triggered from low carb dieting about 2 years ago. I had a bunch of tests run no autoimmune antibodies and bloodwork was back to normal after a couple months. I am no longer low carb dieting. My primary care docs/neurologist/endocrinologist have no actionable input on why this sleep problem could be happening.

    Beyond what I have mentioned above I am a pretty healthy 32 year old.

    I'm really struggling to keep strength training with this constant sleep disruption. I really enjoy lifting while I am doing the activity but I don't understand what could possibly be triggering this. Any insight or advice on this issue would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  • #2
    Sorry to hear about this. It sounds pretty unusual and I'm afraid we're unlikely to crack the case here.

    When you say you've evaluated your sleep thoroughly, what specific evaluations are you referring to?
    IG / YT

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    • #3
      I went to sleep doctor about a year ago and did an at home sleep test. He said there was definitely no indication of sleep apnea in my case and while he said he could refer me to getting a proper sleep study if I was interested. He felt there wasn't a strong indication of need to. I didn't want to go down a rabbit hole of testing that really didn't seem indicated so I just left it alone.

      Is it possible or worth investigating if this is some kind of a sleep related eating disorder that is triggered by training stress? I have tried to tackle this a few ways where I just lay there and try to relax and power through the insomnia without eating and I end up wide awake and never go back to sleep then get exhausted once I eat breakfast. If I give in and eat in the middle of the night I can sleep normally shortly after. The major problem for me then is my work schedule prevents me from being able to make up any of the lost sleep in the middle and it takes days to recover and feel normal.

      And then that also makes me wonder that if this is caused and/or related to training, is the outcome better to be on a medication to manage this and all the risks associated with that just so I can keep training or am I better off just continuing to infrequently lift weights without progress and run which is going good when I can sleep well.

      In case it makes any difference my weight is stable around 220lbs BMI 31.6 waist circumference 43 inches. I was at 238 but having a very difficult time trying to get below that with this sleeping issue.

      Thanks for taking the time.

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      • #4
        This is quite unusual and I'm not sure I have a good answer to explain what's going on here given the temporal relationship you describe.

        Pursuing a proper sleep study may be beneficial here for other sleep-related disorders besides just sleep apnea (particularly if you train on the day of the test to see whether they can "catch" an episode while it happens), although the odds of having a true sleep disorder that is only associated with exercise would be difficult to explain as well. Other things to consider would be whether there are blood sugar disturbances that are occurring at the time (again, my suspicion is not high for this, but we're in "reach" territory here).

        Regardless of all this, I would still be trying to find a dose of training that you can tolerate better -- e.g., I would experiment with the volume, intensity, and frequency of training to see whether there's anything that can be manipulated on that front for better effects.
        IG / YT

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