Big race tomorrow but you’re worried you’re not going to sleep? I hear you. Don’t worry you won’t be alone in that concern. Pre-marathon insomnia is quite common.
A marathon is a big undertaking, no matter if it’s your first or your thirtieth. Nerves are to be expected. A good night’s sleep however will make tomorrow’s twenty six miles go a helluva lot quicker.
Don’t despair, before you go reaching for the horse tranquilizers and sleeping through the starting gun, have a read our top tips to get a good night’s sleep.
Can’t Sleep the Night Before a Marathon? Tips to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Bring some home comforts
Unless you’re fortunate to have a big race in your home town there’s a high chance getting to the starting line will involve a bit of travel.
To avoid the stress of having to leave your carefully chosen bed super early on race day, the sensible ones amongst you will likely book accommodation close by for the night before. Makes sense.
While this is probably the smart move, it might actually be even smarter to book a room for the two preceding nights before a race. Why? Well, because research has discovered that we’re conditioned by reasons of evolutionary survival to sleep poorly the first night we spend in a new hotel room. Actually, the first night we spend anywhere new.
Apparently when we bed down in an unfamiliar location, a so-called ‘lookout’ region of our brain simply refuses to shut down. Preferring instead to keep watch for any signs of danger. The result is we sleep more lightly and are far more responsive to environmental factors – like a dangerous mini fridge making too much noise for instance. Thanks for nothing survival instincts!
Spending a couple of nights in the same place should be enough to overcome this phenomenon. It might also be possible to fool your brain if you bring enough familiar creature comforts from home.
Bringing your entire bed might be a little unrealistic but your pillowcases and sheets could be a good move. The familiar smell and texture could lull your brain into a false sense of security, allowing you to snooze away and awake refreshed and ready for the race.
Remember the most important rule
Limiting pre-race anxiety will do wonders to help you nod off the night before. The simplest way to reduce anxiety is to always follow the cardinal rule. Which all good runners know is, ‘Nothing new on race day.’
If your training has gone well then this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Your race outfit, footwear and race nutrition should all be well tested during your training runs. Have them laid out and ready to go long before you go to bed.
Actually have everything you will need tomorrow laid out. Car keys, wallet, etc. Leave nothing to chance. If you’re a big worrier a race day checklist can help here.
Even if you’re staying away from home in a hotel or friend’s place don’t be tempted to experiment with breakfast. Have your pre-race breakfast already prepared and in the fridge before you even think of hitting the sack, this way you won’t wake in the night having second thoughts.
Too many runners, whether they are newbies or elites, have tragically fallen victim to the mistake of trying new foods either before (or during) a race. Don’t be one of them.
This also extends to what you have for your last supper…
The importance of the last supper
If you’re a runner there’s no point in me telling you something obvious like, ‘You are what you eat.’ However it might just be worth reminding you that what you eat has a big impact on how well you sleep.
So while carb loading on a mountain of pasta the night before might make nutritional sense, make sure you give yourself a window of at least a couple of hours between chowing down and bedding down. Large meals equal a lot of work for your digestive system and with all that churning going on down there nobody will be getting much sleep soon.
Whatever you choose for your last supper make sure it’s something you’re familiar with. If you’re in a new city you could be tempted to experiment with a local delicacy – please resist. Save this adventurous spirit for your post race celebrations. Otherwise you might find yourself spending more time in the loo than in bed the night before the big run, (no pun intended).
Well, there you go – three top tips to increase your odds of getting a good night’s sleep the night before race day. The list by no means ends with those, there are many little life hacks you can make to improve your sleep. Check them out but don’t blame me if you oversleep and ending up running to catch the start gun!
-Written by Sarah Cummings from Sleep Advisor