Should We Take a Nap After a Workout?

  • Getting tired after an intense workout is normal because your central nervous system’s capacity to keep your muscles moving is reduced, resulting in muscle fatigue, making you feel tired.
  • Napping can help accelerate muscle recovery and boosts physical and mental energy.
  • It is best to limit your nap for no more than 20 minutes to avoid waking up feeling dazed and confused.

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One of the many benefits of having a great working out is feeling super energized making you more awake. But since physical activity requires a lot of energy and stamina, it’s only natural to feel tired and sleepy afterwards.

Feeling sleepy after exercise is generally common especially after high-intensity workouts. On the other hand, lighter activities like walking doesn’t usually tire you out.

Generally, your energy levels after exercise depend on factors such as: fitness level; diet; hydration levels; kind of exercise; duration, intensity, and frequency of exercise; underlying health conditions and sleep quality.

So, should you nap right after a workout? Read on to find out the benefits and downsides of napping post-workout and learn some ways on how to do it right. 

Why does sleepiness occur post-workout?

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Sleepiness after a workout is your body’s natural response to physical activity.

During exercise, your muscles use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to contract. As you continue working out, your ATP levels are reduced, decreasing muscle function, leading to muscle fatigue. Your central nervous system (CNS) also contributes a role in exercise by constantly firing signals to stimulate your muscles. But the longer you exercise, the firing becomes less charged.

Furthermore, various transmitters like dopamine and serotonin increase with exercise, bringing a dip in the CNS’ ability to activate your muscles, resulting in central fatigue making you feel exhausted and sleepy.

Benefits of post-workout naps

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  • Muscle recovery. Resting your muscles can support uninterrupted recovery time. During sleep, growth hormones are released by the pituitary gland, which are essential for muscle growth.
  • Enhanced sleep debt. Sleep deprivation impedes muscle recovery resulting in poor athletic performance. Getting more rest through naps can help cut down the effects of poor sleep.
  • Decreased physical fatigue.
  • Boosted mental alertness. Napping reduces fatigue which helps you handle obligations easier throughout the day.  

Downsides to napping after exercise

  • Poor quality rest. Your endorphins and body temperature are elevated during exercise keeping people too awake to nap afterwards. Forcing yourself to nap won’t get you quality rest and will only cause undue frustration.
  • Increased sleepiness. Napping should be limited to a single daytime nap of 20-30 minutes otherwise you might wake up feeling sleepier and disoriented.
  • Disturbed nighttime sleeping. While napping improves sleep debt, you might have difficulties finding sleep at night. If you have a sleep disorder, napping can make your symptoms worse.  See your doctor if you feel like taking regular naps.

How long is the recommended nap?

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No more than 20 minutes. Beyond that, you enter deep sleep and wake up with sleep inertia.

Set your alarm for 25 to 30 minutes to give you time to wind down before your nap.

Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Nap between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. when energy naturally starts to dip.
  • Stretch your muscles before napping to avoid muscle fatigue and stiffness when you wake up.
  • Make sure to rehydrate after a workout, before taking a nap and upon waking up from your nap.
  • Set your room’s temperature between 60 to 67°F for a more comfortable sleep
  • To get better rest, darken your room by wearing a sleep mask, closing the blinds or using blackout curtains.
  • Get enough sleep at nighttime even though you napped during the day.

When to talk to your doctor

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See your doctor if you experience these:

  • constantly feel very sleepy after each workout
  • repeatedly fall asleep without knowing it
  • have trouble waking up from short naps
  • can’t nap even though you’re tired

These symptoms might signal other medical conditions unrelated to physical activity. Also consider consulting a physical trainer. They can help determine if your current workout plan is suitable for your fitness level.

Source: Healthline

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