cartoon drawing of man frustrated because he’s too hot to sleep after exercise

14 remedies worth a try if you’re too hot to sleep after exercise

By Jason Wooden, PhD | July 24, 2021

If you struggle with feeling too hot to sleep after exercising, your options include a cold water dip for your feet, a cool shower, cold compresses, ice packs, freezing your bed sheets, lowering the room temperature, cooling sheets, and a cooling mattress pad.

To avoid overheating before bedtime, exercise earlier, stay hydrated, wear cooling clothing, and schedule in a post exercise cold down routine.

If feeling too hot is an ongoing problem, it’s worth seeing a doctor since there may be something more serious going on.

Exercise is great, but not if you’re too hot to sleep

Tossing and turning in bed because you’re uncomfortably warm yet desperate for sleep – we’ve all been there.

Did you know that every night one in three adults struggle with insomnia?  Not sure where exercise is on the list of sleep issues, but feeling too cold or too hot is a common complaint.

Given 25 percent of adults who exercise prefer to do so in the evening, you’re likely not the only who has struggled with feeling too hot to sleep after exercise.

To be clear, it’s great that you are getting in a bit of exercise, even if the only time you can squeeze it in is evenings.

There’s a long list of benefits you don’t want to miss out on – weight control, better mood and mental health, improve mental acuity, and a strengthened body.  Exercise can also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.

It’s good for sleep too.  In fact, studies have shown it can improve sleep quality and duration.

It can fight stress and anxiety, two big issues for sleep.  It’ll also tire you out.

That’s a lot of good stuff.

However, it’s not so good if you’re wide awake because you’re too hot and sweaty to fall asleep.

Is there anything you could have done differently?

Let’s take a look at what’s actually happening and your options to keep your body on track so that you’re not too hot to sleep after exercise.

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When you’re feeling too hot to sleep after exercise, it’s not just that you’re feeling uncomfortable.

It turns out there’s a connection between your core body temperature and sleep.

Thanks to your circadian clock, there are natural ebbs and flows for all sorts of things in the body.  So, it’s no surprise that you body’s temperature naturally dips as you get sleepy and rises in the morning.

(Researcher’s think this is the way your body conserves energy for other things.)

Colder room temperatures help your body’s natural sleep process. Studies suggest that a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for sleeping with 65 degrees being the sweet spot.

Obviously, if you’re feeling too hot to fall asleep, you’re likely out of your comfort zone and the warmer temperature is telling your brain to be awake.

14 Remedies worth a try if you’re too hot to sleep after exercising

Okay, let’s look at how you can get your body back into the comfort zone when you’re feeling too hot to sleep after exercise.

Depending on how overheated you’re feeling and your living situation, there are plenty of things you can try.

cartoon drawing of a bucket of cold water to use if you’re too hot to sleep after exercise

1) Dip your feet in cold water

Quick, simple, and may just do the trick for you.

photo of shower running for person who is too hot to sleep after exercise

2) Take a cool shower

Another quick and time tested remedy.

photo of swimming pool

3) Take a quick swim

If you have access to a pool, a quick gentle dip can help cool you down and feel refreshed.  A post-workout swim can also aid in recovery.

4) Try a cold compress

You can place it on your neck or forehead.

photo of ice to be used by person too hot to sleep after exercise

5) Try an ice pack

If you don’t have a store bought one, you can make your own ice pack using a plastic water bottle.  Be careful how long you use it so you don’t get an ice burn or frostbite. To be safe, you can wrap it in a towel.

6) Try a pre-chilled towel

Have it ready to go in your fridge or freezer for when you finish your workout.

cartoon drawing of man doing breathing exercise because he’s too hot to sleep after exercise

7) Sitali breathing

An ancient Ayurvedic breathing technique practice used to cool and sooth the body.

Learn more

photo of basement in house

8) Relocate to a cooler spot

Try sleeping downstairs or in a basement.  Sometimes, even sleeping on the floor can make a difference.

9) Freeze your bedsheets

Simple enough…

10) Turn the temperature down

If you have it, air conditioning is a great way to cool down.

photo of house fan

11) Run a house fan

A great alternative if you don’t have air conditioning.

photo of cooling sheets for use when you’re too hot to sleep after exercise

12) Switch to cooling sheets

Made from materials like cotton, bamboo, and linen, they’re engineered to help you stay cooler.

13) Flip your pillow over

photo of cooling mattress pad to help if too hot to sleep after exercise

14) Try a cooling mattress pad

Some are designed with materials to draw away heat, others are more sophisticated and are powered for temperature control.

Exercise tips to help you avoid getting too hot to sleep

If you’re going to exercise in the evening, there’s a better way to do it.

There are practical things you can do before, during, and afterwards so that you’re not too hot to sleep after exercise.

To keep from getting too hot, you should:

  • Make sure there’s an adequate gap between your workout and bedtime
  • Dress to stay cool
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid overexercising
  • Have a post-exercise cool down routine
  • Allow yourself time to wind down

Another reason to exercise earlier in the evening is because aerobic exercise can trigger the body to release endorphins that may keep some people awake.

Also, insomnia isn’t the only risk from getting too hot.  If you get too hot when you exercise, there’s a risk for exercise-related heat exhaustion.  It happens when your body temperature gets too high.

Learn more:
How to avoid overheating during exercise (MedlinePlus)
Exercise-related heat exhaustion (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

Exercise isn’t the only thing that can make you feel too hot to sleep

If feeling hot in the evening is an ongoing issue, it’s worth talking to a doctor.  There may be something more serious going on with your body, especially if you find it hard to cool down.

Other things that can make you feel too hot include:

  • medications
  • an overactive thyroid
  • menopause
  • medical conditions such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis
  • recreational drugs

Other things that will make it easier to sleep

If you’re struggling to sleep because you’re too hot after exercising, why makes things any harder?

Unfortunately, there’s a long list of things that affect sleep.

That’s why it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene, the everyday habits that set the stage for restful sleep.  Poor sleep hygiene can sabotage everything else you do for your sleep.

For better sleep hygiene, you should:

  • keep consistent wake up & sleep times
  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as
  • caffeine before bedtime
  • maintain a regular bedtime routine
  • avoid using TVs, laptops, or other electronics before sleep
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet, & relaxing

It’s also important to see a doctor, especially if your insomnia becomes a long-term issue.

Too many people are unaware how many other medical issues can cause problems or worsen sleep.  The list includes things like chronic pain, heartburn, cancer, dementia, and asthma.

You could also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

Sources:

1. “Talking Points”, World Sleep Society website

2. “Mornings are the most popular time for Americans to work out”, 2018, YouGov

3. “Benefits of Exercise”, Medline Plus

4. Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review, Adv Prev Med. 2017

5. “The Best Temperature for Sleep”, 2015, alaskasleep.com

6. “How to avoid overheating during exercise”, MedlinePlus

7. “10 reasons you are always hot”, 2020, MedicalNewsToday

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