Racing ZZZs: How to Sleep Before a Big Race

Most runners suffer from pre-race nerves. As the race date draws near, doubt and anxiety begin to overshadow confidence and excitement. Although feeling nervous and doubtful before a big event is a normal part of racing, the restless sleep it often causes can get in the way of having a great race.

Here's how to keep your wits about you when your mind is keeping you up the night before a race and what to do if you toss and turn all night.

Have Your Sleep Arsenal Ready

Earplugs and an eye mask can help you sleep when unfamiliar noise and lights are present at the hotel you're staying at the night before a race.

Your race plan should include the night before the big event. If you plan to wear earplugs the night before the race to block out traffic or hotel noises, it's best to get used to them in the weeks leading up to the race. Some runners even travel with their blanket or pillow from home to keep their sleep familiar.

More: How to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Although many people take a sleeping pill to encourage sleep, a better option might be an over-the-counter synthetic version of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is secreted by the small pineal gland in your brain, and helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. It will keep you from feeling drowsy after you've woken up the following morning, allowing your body to awaken fully and start the race energized and ready to run.

Be Proactively Positive

Push off your nerves until the following morning. It's easy after a race to look back and ask, "What was I so nervous about?" While it isn't always easy to choose not to be nervous, it can help to be proactive about your butterflies. The night before a race, rather than dwell on being nervous, say out loud, "I have all of tomorrow morning before the race to be nervous, so there is no need to be nervous now!" The more you say it, the more you'll believe it.

When doubts start to creep in, remind yourself that you've put in the hard training. Trust that your labor will pay off. Remember that your body has been trained for the task it's about to complete.

It can help to have mantras during a race that you repeat to yourself to stay motivated, such as "push the pace," "relax and roll," or "finish strong." It can also help to have mantras before the race to help you keep your cool when the doubt and nerves become overwhelming.

More: 4 Mental Tips to Overcome Pre-Race Jitters

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About the Author

Sarah Crouch

Sarah Crouch is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier and a professional long distance runner for Reebok and ZAP Fitness. She is also a coach for Runnersconnect, an online community for athletes of all abilities and a team of expert coaches who assist with all aspects of training. Sarah is dedicated to bringing the best out of athletes at all levels of the sport from beginners to advanced runners.

Sarah Crouch is a three-time Olympic Trials qualifier and a professional long distance runner for Reebok and ZAP Fitness. She is also a coach for Runnersconnect, an online community for athletes of all abilities and a team of expert coaches who assist with all aspects of training. Sarah is dedicated to bringing the best out of athletes at all levels of the sport from beginners to advanced runners.

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