Exercise makes sleep problems worse

Jools Holland

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I tried exercising more to see if that helps my sleep maintenance and male pattern hair loss (which I'm pretty sure is exacerbated by poor sleep) whilst keeping everything else I do constant to see if the exercise helps. I tried walking around 4 - 5 miles in the day rather than 2 - 2.5 miles in the day (or around 2 - 3 hours a day of a brisk walk rather than 1 - 1.5). I noticed that exercise helps with sleep onset (I get to sleep faster, but I don't usually have problems with sleep onset anyway).

However, when I exercise, it just seems to make my sleep maintenance/quality worse - I wake up more, and when I do my entire body ends up completely drenched in sweat in my sleep (so much so that I have to change my sheets everyday), and I have increased nightmares. It also seems like my hair loss accelerates in my sleep and in the day after, because when I look at my hairline the next morning it looks more receded (it's not in my imagination - I am able to confirm when I compare pictures) and I have more hair shedding throughout the next day (more hairs falling out when working at my computer, in the sink or toilet when using the bathroom, etc).

I thought that maybe the reason is that when I do this extra walking (e.g., 4-5 miles a day, rather than 2 - 2.5), I burn more calories and am no longer eating at maintenance, so I tried to increase my calorie intake by the additional amount of calories I am burning (so around 250 calories, I think, as I think this is the extra calories I would burn with another 2 -2.5 miles of walking), but it didn't help at all. Also, I lost a lot of weight recently and am worried that I will put it back on if I increase my calorie intake.

Could the reason why the sleep gets worse with exercise be that I am burning more calories than I think with my extra walk? Should I try an extra 400 calories? Then 600? If that doesn't work I will go back to eating what I was before and limit my exercise again.
 
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Jools Holland

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The other thing I've noticed is that when I have increased my exercise (by an extra 1 to 1.5 hours of walking a day) I have gained 1 kilo of weight. This isn't because of extra calories because I only just increased my calories by 250 calories yesterday, and I noticed the weight change before. (And I know I was eating the same amount of food because I have been eating the exact same meals and weighing every single ingredient in my meals exactly with a scale).

I don't see how this could be muscle gain, as I don't see how it would be possible to gain 1 kg of muscle in a few weeks just from walking around more in the day.
 

bEt

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How do you feel about supplements? Some people want to stay away from them but to me they are both an ethical and efficient way to address specific needs. When we sleep, our bodies use serotonin to make melatonin. To make serotonin we need several nutrients including iron. Do you have medical care to check your iron? I have also heard that sufficient calcium and especially magnesium are needed for sleep mantainence. If you have lost weight it may be that your body needs to replenish some of those minerals.
A substance our bodies make called s-adenosyl-methionine is also sold as a plant-based supplement. It is sold as "sam- e" over the counter in the u.s. as an antidepressant. For someone whose body is not making enough serotonin, a Very low dose may be helpful, like 1/4 of the smallest dose you can find, taken first thing in the morning. However for people who are predisposed to mania it can raise serotonin too high.

I would start with seeing a general practitioner (medical doctor) if you can to get any suggestions they may be able to offer. I suspect that you are right that you need to eat more, especially with the extra exercise.

Do you already use an algal oil dha supplement? There are many available both as pills and as bottled liquid oils. If you need more docosahexaenoic acid, you may benefit from taking extra for a while. Though is may sound odd, there are one or two prenatal supplements I've seen in local stores that include vegan dha. With something like that, you could address several nutrient needs with one pill.
I hope you start getting better sleep. If I read anything else that may apply I'll pass it on.