Running is a miracle cure for insomnia

By Kacey Ngo   March 30, 2024 | 11:00 pm PT
Seven years ago, following a doctor's advice to start running, I had only one wish which was to cure the insomnia that had plagued me for six years since giving birth in 2011.

The initial steps weren't easy as chronic insomnia had weakened me. For the first eight weeks, I could only walk and run for 30-40 minutes, which was a significant effort.

Back then, my dream was simply to run a continuous 5 km to improve my sleep and health. But that distance seemed unreachable as I could only run 300-400 m at a time. It took two months of waking up at 4:30 a.m. and persisting with short runs before I could finally run 4.7 km around the HCMC's Independence Palace. Along with my running progress, my sleep gradually became more stable and deeper.

Feeling a marked improvement in health was the motivation I needed to keep running. After six months of training, I managed to run 10 km, a major accomplishment for me. Being part of a running community, I learned that many runners can achieve 10 km in just one or two weeks. Yet for others like me, each new distance milestone requires a lot of effort, endurance, patience and determination.

Kacey Ngo during a marathon in Ho Chi Minh City in 2023. Photo by Kacey Ngo

Kacey Ngo during a marathon in Ho Chi Minh City in 2023. Photo by Kacey Ngo

In 2017, when running wasn't as popular as it is now, my pursuit of 21 km and then 42 km seemed strange to family and friends. My mother, despite loving exercise, always worried about me, and my father, a doctor, believed running too much wasn't good for joints and overall health.

Therefore, each new milestone I reached was both a joy and a concern for my parents. They were happy to see their daughter healthy but worried I might overdo it, become too skinny or ruin my skin. But I knew my body well and how it adapted to daily, monthly and yearly training.

After seven years, running became a "miracle cure," almost completely curing my insomnia. My body became firmer, healthier and more youthful. Particularly during times of sorrow or fatigue, a few running laps would lighten my mood and dispel negativity.

Participating in races and interacting with other runners, I've heard many health-related stories about the benefits of running. Everyone seemed to gain something positive from running. One impressive story was about a man who overcame hepatitis B thanks to running. Before running, he weighed 85 kg with a severely inflamed and fatty liver, leading to a weak body, difficulty walking and shortness of breath. He doubted he could fight the disease, but after over a year of persistent running, he completely recovered and lost 10 kg.

In one fun run, I witnessed him finish 21 km in nearly three hours. While everyone else sat down to eat and suggested he should rest, he kept going and was determined to complete his run.

"Running is so miraculous, I will stick with it for life," he said to me with a beaming, sweat-drenched smile.

Even in my own family, more members have taken up running. My two sisters and brothers-in-law have completed 21 km and aim for 42 km. Seeing tracklogs and witnessing positive physical transformations and health improvements among friends and family on social media, I feel validated in my choice to start running seven years ago.

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