I Think I Am Dying | Sleep Issues From Heavy Training

I am writing this off of three hours of sleep in the last three days. So, if this post gets a little hairy, its probably because I am either completely losing control of the faculties in place that regulate the differentiation of my stupid Neanderthal lizard brain and my actual rational, logical thought organization centers or I passed out and my face hit the keyboard. Before I start, anytime I bring these issues up with anyone, I get a lecture about sleep hygiene. Yes, I genuinely appreciate when people show empathy here and take the time to offer me advice. But, here is a list of things I have done to try to improve this situation:

    • Gotten rid of all light pollution/exposure in my room
    • ZMA, melatonin, valarian (actually helps for a couple days at a time), ambien (helps my sleep quality but turns me into a psycopath), zquil (gives me a terrible hangover the nex day), and changed my dietary habits in the evening.
    • I could drink 3 gallons of coffee or have 0mg of caffeine and it literally makes no difference. This is based off of months of trial and error.
    • I’ve done 2 sleep studies. Both of which were conducted during extended bouts of my issues. Everything was completely normal… except for the combined hour and a half I actually spent sleeping. I was half hoping that I just had sleep apnea so that I could get a CPAP to finally be considered eligible to live in Rhodestown

So, this begs the question, what the hell is my problem? I have a couple theories. The first of which is that I am just having 6 hour long panic attacks without actually panicking about anything. I am a pretty even keeled, laid back person for the most part. It takes a lot to get me genuinely riled up. I am pretty sure anxiety isn’t the issue.

Which leads me to my second theory. Sympathetic nervous system over stimulation. Our bodies aren’t as smart as we give them credit for. Many of the reasons for our emotional, physical, and hormonal reactions to certain situations/stimuli are merely left over cave man survival mechanisms. This is a reason I am not a fan of anxiety drugs and add medicine. Yes, there is a percentage of people that have borderline debilitating issues with these conditions and they actually need these medicines. But, think about what anxiety meant when we were hunter gatherers. Anxiety and worry were probably both elements relating to lack of food, the impending winter months, or inevitable attack from another tribe/grizzly bears/dinosaurs/whatever. Fear is a fucking awesome motivator. Anxiety kept humans moving and thinking. I know this because we are all alive today in a relatively comfortable time with very little to actually worry about. Sure, paying the bills is tough. But, there is a zero percent chance of having to watch your family get gored by a saber tooth tiger or trampled to death by a mastodon.

Anyway, what I am getting at is, the fight or flight response from lifting heavy stuff has about a zero differentiation from the same fight or flight that is cued from watching one of natures perfect killing machines sprint at you with its mouth open. I think at some point in our evolution, we lost the ability to better regulate that stimulation. Basically, I think the nervous response from heavy training is much harder to “turn off” for some people. Me being one of them.

Once I started considering this as the possible origin of the issue, I started experimenting with some different modalities/protocols that have made some difference. Basically, if I take the time to do some kind of parasympathetic driven activity, my sleep quality is slightly better. None of this is the end all be all of insomnia cures, but it helps me tremendously.

  • Light static stretching before bed. Basically, I will just hang out in a pancake stretch for 10-15 minutes, switch to something like a couch stretch for 5 mins on each leg, then maybe pick 2 or three smaller muscles to stretch.
  • Light extra workout. My favorite is 100 reps of each of these exercises with a mini band: facepulls, pull aparts, good morning, curls, tri. extensions, some bodyweight squats, maybe some short planks for 20-40 seconds.
  • Contrast shower. 20 minutes of 1:30 hot, 30s cold, and always end on cold.
  • Ice bath. Find a happy place and sit there for 20 minutes.

As you’ll notice, all of these are right around 20 minutes. This is because I never feel like its enough work if its shorter than 10 but I get incredibly bored at 30. Science.

Anyone else experience similar issues? I’d love to here what works for you.



Sprint. Kill. Sleep… please just go to sleep.




2 thoughts on “I Think I Am Dying | Sleep Issues From Heavy Training

  1. Hey Mike,

    I seem to be in the same boat, although whatever you’re training with is a few hundred pounds heavier. The best solution is try to find something that helps the brain “switch off”. Doing something that requires zero thought or very little stimulus is great. You give me that thing that takes zero stimulus to do and I’ll do it from now until the zombie apocalypse. Main issues being there is very little you can do to switch off. As you stated there is an “on/off” switch, sometimes the wiring gets fuzzy and the off switch is stuck. Chad Aichs has talked on and on and on about this. Im sure that 90% of my injuries pertain to lack of sleep. Slipped discs are related to general jackassery, but a certain portion of annular recovery relates to sleep habits(you know more than me). Getting 2-3 hours of sleep from 6-12 months will fuck you up. Not to mention internal function like liver enzymes (AST, ALT) and Endocrine system. Finding something adaptogenic in terms of supplements may help theres a lot of research on some hormonal regulation through adaptogens.

    The activities that I find helpful are as follows:
    – Walking, I’m not talking mileage or distance. Just a walk around the block maybe 20-30.
    -Swimming sort of does the job, anywhere between 20-30 min of either wading around in a pool, walking in waist deep water, or just free style swimming. No Michael Phelps style thrashing.
    -Driving. No thrash metal or boring podcast. Just try to drive around for a good 30 minutes with the windows down. Driving shuts off the mind to a certain extent because most of the motions are based off of memory or reflexes. Again I don’t mean drive like you are brain dead riding peoples asses and mowing down pedestrians.
    – Benadryl, as shitty as this sounds 3 bendaryl will put you out for a good 6 to 8 hours. You build a tolerance quite fast and those puppies are easy to go through. Id say wean on and off every few weeks. Cycle it like assistance work few days on, few days off and it should work.
    -Watching CNN or any other news channel. Not to be an ass and point fingers, but for some reason my mind knows its all bullshit so I just start to fade.
    -Sweet little glass of brandy. This can quickly spiral into a world of shit. When in doubt shot glass out, but make sure that shot glass isn’t 64oz.

    Don’t know if this is helpful, some days it works and some days it does not want to. Also depends on training schedule and eating habits. Downing a stack of oreos and an egg and cheese burrito is not optimal an hour before bed. Make sure to keep Tums on the nightstand at all times, or just eat some chalk.

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