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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 05, 2016

Dear Mark: Salt Room Therapy; Can’t Sleep After Training

By Mark Sisson
17 Comments

Salt Room Therapy in lineFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First, what’s the deal with salt room therapy? Are there actual benefits, particularly for dermatological and respiratory conditions, to sitting inside a room as aerosolized salt wafts over you? Second, what can a reader do who absolutely can’t get to sleep after training at night? Postworkout insomnia is a real drag, and it will impede your gains, so this is an important topic. Luckily, there are a few things to try.

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

Just wondering if you have any information on salt room therapy. These places are popping up all over Australia and I have seen good anecdotal evidence that they are terrific for skin and breathing issues. My granddaughter (1yr) has terrible eczema which I thought might be helped by salt therapy. Do you think there are any possible dangers involved? Either short or long term?

Thanks for your time,

Kerryn

Legend has it that ancient salt miners had such remarkable respiratory health that physicians of the time began prescribing visits to the salt caves for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions. As it turns out, a salt cave’s air is imbued with powdered sodium chloride, or clouds of salt. A salt therapy room recreates this “microclimate of the salt cave” by releasing aerosolized salt into the air. Proponents and a recent literature review say it improves respiratory health, treats asthma, reduces inflammation and swelling of the bronchial mucosa, hastens expectoration of mucus (and all the allergens found within said mucus), and can even treat dermatological conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.

Most of the modern research into salt room therapy, also called halotherapy (from “halo,” Greek for salt), comes from Eastern Europe. It’s quite interesting but difficult to parse.

A PubMed search for “halotherapy psoriasis” produced a confusing Russian study that appears to show benefits for psoriasis patients. A 1993 paper found that among 112 children with atopic dermatitis treated with halotherapy, 58% reported a full recovery and 20% a partial recovery at 24 months. Another, earlier Russian paper reports the successful treatment of 216 pediatric bronchial asthma patients using halotherapy. A halotherapy institute in Belarus reports treating over 42,000 respiratory and allergic patients with a 97% success rate.

In 2013, 45 patients with tonsillar hypertrophy (the kind of hypertrophy you don’t want) received either halotherapy or placebo (spending time in a room that resembled the salt therapy room only without the aerosolized salt). 44% of the halotherapy group improved, while only 22% of the placebo group did. Moreover, the young patients enjoyed the halotherapy, considering it a “time for play rather than therapy.”

Most of the studies don’t seem to have control groups, and the language barrier (albeit via translations) makes it tough to analyze, but I’d say it’s worth a shot if it’s not too expensive and nothing else has worked.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Hi Mark,

I love working out – especially HIIT. I tend to work out between 7pm and 9:30pm after I leave the office. I have noticed that during weeks where my training is especially intense, I suffer from incredible insomnia. I do not want to stop training, but on the other hand, need to bring down my exercise-induced cortisol levels so I can catch some zzzs. Any suggestions on how I can do this naturally and safely?

Janna

Be the weirdo wearing blue-blocking goggles

The worst thing you can do for your sleep is to spend your evening under fluorescent lights with blaring music and two dozen big screen TVs beaming blue light directly into your eyes. Couple the heavy light-induced melatonin suppression with the stress hormones coursing through your veins from the constant training sans-respite and yeah, you won’t sleep well. Pick up a cheap pair of orange safety goggles and wear them to the gym for two weeks. See if it helps. I bet it will.

Train in the morning

Instead of losing 2.5 (and likely 3, with showers and such) hours every night to your workout, shift it to the morning. You can focus on establishing a nice, relaxing evening routine. You can read some fiction, chill out with friends or partners, have some tea, maybe some gelatin. Sure, you’ll have to wake up earlier, but you’ll be sleeping better, going to bed earlier, getting the workout over first thing, and that should free up enough sleep time for an earlier wakeup.

Gelatin before bed

Gelatin is a great source of glycine (the best, actually). Human studies show that 3 grams of glycine taken before bed increases the quality of your sleep and reduces daytime sleepiness following sleep restriction.

L-theanine before bed

While L-theanine hasn’t been definitively shown to reduce cortisol, it does induce relaxation and improve sleep quality (especially in hyperactive people). Go for 100-200 mg. You might also try Primal Calm, my anti-stress stack that includes L-theanine.

Look into anti-stress teas, herbs, and supplements

Browse these two posts for ideas.

Don’t make it worse with caffeine

Keep caffeine to the morning hours. Avoid pre-workouts that include caffeine if you intend on training at night.

Don’t train HIIT so much

HIIT, sprints, and related workouts work as an acute stressor: a massive dose of intensity that you need lots of time to recover from. If you try to make them a chronic stressor, something done every day or every other day, you’ll get diminishing returns and blowback from your adrenals. Your insomnia is blowback.

But at some point, you’ll have to just chill out and reassess your schedule. It sounds rather extreme to me.

Why are you training for two and a half hours at a time? Are you doing this every day? Why?

I’ve observed a funny thing: when something isn’t working, many people do the same thing even harder. Low-carb not working? Go even lower. Dropping 500 calories a day not helping your weight? Drop 1000! This can be a big mistake. That you feel the need to train so frequently and for so long suggests that you’re not getting the results you’d expect. Just remember that you don’t get fitter during a training session. You get fitter during your recovery from the training. If you’re doing HIIT every day, you aren’t recovering. You aren’t improving. And the lack of sleep will only hamper your recovery and adaptation even further.

That’s it for today, folks. If anyone has any tips for post-workout insomnia or experience with salt room therapy, let us know down below!

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17 Comments on "Dear Mark: Salt Room Therapy; Can’t Sleep After Training"

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Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
4 months 13 days ago

“Halotherapy” – a mad or overly experimental person would shake salt crystals in a salt cellar (plastic one from the store), pull the cap off, and sniff the dust.

I learned this fixed sinus pain when I had a job working with dusty allergenic stuff years ago, craved salt, and tried the neti pot thing, then decided hey – sinuses etc have mucous, why add water?

But if you do things you read in a comment on the internet, then on your own head be it. 🙂

Shary
Shary
4 months 13 days ago

Interesting info regarding salt therapy. I frequently do use alternatives to conventional allopathic medicine, when I’ve found them to work, but the salt room thing strikes me as a bit of a scam. How does one know if the salt concentration in these artificial salt “caves” is too little or too much, or what else one is breathing in such a place? Possibly a better, safer idea for such a small child would be to take her for a stay near the ocean to see if the naturally saltier air helps.

Elizabeth
4 months 13 days ago

I have tried a salt room and loved it. The whole experience was very relaxing. A friend with some respiratory issues felt her sinuses were very clear afterwards. The one I tried used the pink Himalayan salt. They had extremely comfortable reclining chairs. If the place weren’t so far away from my home I would go there more frequently.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
4 months 13 days ago

Great advice! Failing to achieve your goals (weight, muscle growth etc)? Take a step back and ease the load

Paul
Paul
4 months 13 days ago

Totally here you on notbeing able to sleep after workouts, I used to workout after dinner and that made me too wired! Now I do late afternoon before dinner and it works.Fullbody 1 -11/4 hour max at 3 times a week. The 3rd workout I sometimes split into upper lower sessions and do them fri and sat Not getting sleep really sucks, working out in the morning sucks for me so good luck!?:-)

Diana
4 months 13 days ago

You make such a good point at the end about taking a break and not pushing harder. As a runner, I’m always falling into a trap of wanting to do more if I’m not seeing results. In fact, it’s often the case that the reasons I’m not progressing are due to pushing so hard and increasing my intensity. Whenever I stop marathon training and take a break from running, I often lose about 10 pounds and see my body really recover. This has been so powerful for me that it inspired the publication of my book on running goals.
Diana
betterthanalive.com

grace @ the smokin' chemist
4 months 13 days ago

diana, i am the same way. if i am not seeing exactly the result i want, the solution obviously must be to go even harder! that seems to be the way i tend to react at first, too.

Agatek
Agatek
4 months 13 days ago

Hey Janna !

The body actually needs to cool down to go to sleep – indeed, your body temperature varies with your circadian rhythm – so this is one more reason why you’re suffering from insomnia. If you really can’t switch your workout to mornings, you could try having a cold bath/shower before bed to cool your body down.

Best wishes !

Peter
Peter
4 months 13 days ago

I had insomnia too after intense late afternoon workouts. Now I work out early morning and cut the volume of HIIT training nearly in half and sleep much better. A small amount of HIIT goes a long ways and it is easy to overdo it.

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
4 months 12 days ago

Yikes … I’ve been taking my collagen in the morning duh … I will start taking it at night. 🙂

Elizabeth
4 months 12 days ago

I take mine in the morning too Healthy Hombre! It’s such a big part of my routine. But I sleep pretty well regardless.

Richard
Richard
4 months 12 days ago

Salt is good for ears nose and throat as I have found out. I had terrible problems with itchy ears and wax build up for years…. until I started taking simple salt water spray up my nostrils. Somehow the salt helps balance mucus in the body. In my case it brings seems to help my eustachian tube and whole ENT. I would guess the Salt Cave may do something similar but also benefit the lungs.

Beto Sver
Beto Sver
4 months 12 days ago

How is salt therapy? For allergic rhinitis may also be good?

Deb
Deb
4 months 12 days ago

I have been to Salt Rooms, and loved the experience. It was very quiet, relaxing, and I felt that my skin and breathing did improve significantly after a session. Many people nap during the hour-log treatment. I think it must have some similar benefits to using saline spray in your nose to clear mucus. Ever since I learned that trick, I don’t get colds or sinus problems nearly as much, or almost never.

archaeologyboy
4 months 11 days ago
I’ve had pretty bad insomnia after workouts so I feel your pain, it went on for several years. The thing that has gotten me back on track is…going to bed later. Google “sleep restriction therapy”, because my sleep routine was pretty broken it took a couple of months for it to really work, but nowadays I go to bed around 2330 and sleep really deeply until 7 or so, waking up feeling rested. I also switched my workouts to the morning or late afternoon, I haven’t done an evening workout in ages so I don’t know how well I’d sleep.… Read more »
Mansal Denton
4 months 8 days ago

“Be the weirdo wearing blue-blocking goggles” I don’t know that you have to be these days. At least not when you’re at home. Between Flux on the Mac/PC and then the built-in blue blocking setting on the iPhone, I can be fine without the need for the goggles at all. At least, in my house that is.

Amber
Amber
4 months 8 days ago
I cured my issue with years of insomnia after intense workouts that happened even if they were earlier during the day. What I found after a genetic test was I had methylation dysfunction from genetic polymorphisms that led to impaired ability to detoxify ammonia among other things, and also electrolyte imbalance (salt wasting) due to some adrenal dysfunction. I was able to fix it with pink Himalayan sea salt in water and the amino acid l-ornithine right before bed (about 1/2-1 tablespoon in water on an empty stomach) to clear ammonia created during the workout that wasn’t properly detoxifying. Also… Read more »
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