Optimizing Your Sleep Leading Up to Race Day

Optimizing Your Sleep Leading Up to Race Day

Now that marathon season is in full swing, we’re highlighting some of the struggles and best practices for optimizing your sleep leading up to your big race.

You’ve put in the work for months - sticking to your training plan, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping healthy - but now you undoubtedly feel the pressure to get proper rest the days leading up to your race.  

However, there’s a litany of factors that make this difficult: less exhaustion during taper making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep; excitement or nervousness due to pre-race jitters; and often a change of environment if you’re traveling for your race.  

The good news is that no single night (even the night before the race) will make or break your race.  You’ve got your training and adrenaline on your side, and those will take you far.  

That said, if you’re still looking for that extra edge, in the week prior to your race there’s opportunity to be had.  Here are a couple of proven methodologies to consider to maximize your rest so you can be at your best on the big day.

1. Optimize your sleep routine

Follow best practices for syncing your circadian rhythm during the day and in the evening; refrain from caffeine and alcohol several hours before bed; and keep your bedroom nice and cool. 

If you’re traveling for your race, what can you bring with you to carry your routine through?  It could be your pillow, face mask, ear plugs, or even a stuffed animal or blanket.

2. Shift your sleep schedule

We all know that feeling of waking up every hour because we don’t want to miss the alarm clock set to an unfamiliar time.  Chances are you won’t be getting up on race day at the same time you normally get up during the week.  Start gradually setting your alarm clock earlier (or later) through the week prior so that on race day your wake-up time doesn’t feel abrupt or  stress-inducing at all.  

If you’re traveling across time zones for your race, make sure you’re factoring in jet lag too!

3. Have a plan if you can’t sleep

Don’t just lie in bed stewing.  What re-centers you the most? It could be a cup of (non-caffeinated) tea, folding laundry, reading a book, or even watching TV on the couch for 30 mins (no bright lights please).

If you’ve missed some zzz’s, try to take a nap the next day  if you can.  Research shows that sleep-deprived athletes can increase performance by taking a 20 to 90-minute nap in the afternoon.  Try not to go over 90 or you may enter deep sleep and throw off your clock.

4. Proper planning the night before the race 

Getting ready takes time, so allow yourself plenty of it the night before the race.  Aim for an early dinner - not only because it’s good for digestion and sleep, but because it will allow you enough time to prepare for the next day.  

We recommend laying out everything you will need the night before, including your outfit, in-race nutrition, and breakfast.  If you’re running a marathon, check out this marathon packing list to make sure you don't forget anything.

5. Don’t overthink it. 

You’ve got this.  You’re ready.  Relax the best you can. 

A great tool for positively focusing your energy is visualizing your race.  For many, seeing the race play out can help to avoid repetitive anxiety or negative energy.  You may even consider incorporating the visualization into your NSDR

Already finished your big race for the year?  Make sure you’re getting proper rest and recovery in the off-season .  We recommend starting with finding the pillow suited specifically for you.

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