Spending time with runners has given me an insight into what compounds to success on raceday. Everyone thinks that rigorous training is all that matters to winning a race. You will be shocked to know that training only contributes to less that 50% of the final success. There is a lot to winning a race than what meets the eye.
Interestingly, researchers and active athletes, place a lot of emphasis to the contribution made by sleep to running performance. Athletes, who get adequate and quality sleep, not only have an edge over their competitors but also are more confident when it comes to running.
Most importantly is the pre-race sleep that has attracted a lot of attention in the recent years. Questions are being asked about the importance of getting good sleep the night before the race. An array of answers has been available but still there is a lot of subsequent questions that keep coming up.
Among the hotly debated issues is the importance of pre-race speed and what it could mean to athletes actual performance. All of this and much more will be addressed in this post.
How pre-race sleep affects your performance
Lack of adequate sleep, especially to the buildup period towards your race, could negatively affect your track performance. In the short term, poor sleeping can reduce your reaction rate as well as impair your cognitive function. For the long haul, poor quality sleep will result into the rise of hormones. The result is weight gain and you become slower.
Therefore, it is not only the pre-race sleep that means a lot to your race. But rather all the nights leading to your race. Bad mood, slow reaction time, and impaired cognitive functions are all recipe to poor performance in your race.
After training all those weeks, it would be a shame not to give your best performance because you did not get it right with your sleep. As it will be discussed in the rest of this article, you will be dully guided on how to cater for your sleep needs as well as answering some of the questions you may have about pre-race sleep.
How much pre-race sleep is adequate?
Every individual has unique sleep requirements. A galore of other factors including stress and diet will also affect the amount of sleep you will need before a race. However, what remains true for runners and sleep is that you will require more of it to allow your body muscles recover from the intensive training.
Another factor that will come in play to determining the amount of sleep you require before running is the kind of race you will be taking part in. For instance, a casual runner will require much less sleep than a marathoner. The difference comes because a marathon runner has to put more pressure to his body during the training schedule.
Why is pre-race sleep important?
For the period leading to your race, you will intensify your training. Most of the times you will be out running to keep your muscles sharp and ready for the challenge ahead. This will take a toll on your muscles, fitness and your energy levels.
The importance of the pre-run sleep is that it will ensure that your muscles are fully rested and recovered for the eventful day. Sleep is the right therapy for muscle tension. It also gives your body a chance to build on used energy.
Another importance of pre-running sleep is the fact that it psychologically prepares your mind for the race. Having no sleep will linger at the back of your mind and you cannot convince it that you are ready for the run. Psychologists encourage runners to try their level best to have a good night sleep the day leading to their race.
Finally, your cognitive functions are at its best when you have adequate and comfortable sleep the night before you run. Your level of reaction is greatly improved and these are among the final touches that you need for a good race.
How can know you had adequate pre-running sleep?
You can only tell that you had adequate sleep only after you wake up naturally rather than forcing yourself out of bed. But for many people, this is not practical. It is therefore advisable that you come up with a sleeping schedule to ensure that you get the most out your sleep before you hit the track.
The best approach to meeting your sleep requirements before every run is by establishing your sleeping patterns. Through this, you will know the right time to sleep to get maximum benefits.
How elite runners sleep for the day heading to their heats
Paula Radcliffe is a marathon record holder. During her great days on the track she was known to sleep for 9 hours every night. She further supplemented her sleep with 2 hours in the afternoon. Asked why she had
such a strict sleeping schedule, she said that it helps her muscles fully recover and build adequate energy for the next day. And for this strict sleeping, not only before marathons but all the time, Paula has a world record
to show for it.
Running and sleep experts have come short of endorsing Paula’s sleeping schedule for every professional runner. While it all comes down to the uniqueness of each individual, having more sleep during your training and more importantly on the eve of your running could prove to be the difference between winning and losing.
Tips to help you sleep well before a race
For every runner, getting 8 hours of comfortable shut-eye the night before a big race is their dream. But achieving this amount of sleep is better said than done. Tossing and turning are inevitable and they may spoil
your chances for a good night sleep. However, there are some things you can to better your chances for not only comfortable but adequate night sleep.
Have an alternative plan for a restless night: what will you do if you cannot sleep at 2 a.m.? You should have a plan for such instances. In fact, knowing what to do in the event of a restless night could prevent it from
happening. But when it does, do not linger on the bed stewing for the lost sleep. Instead, go and fold your laundry or sit at the reading table and turn a few pages of your favorite novel. You will be surprised that your sleep will find way back and before long you will be stuck in your dreams.
Establish a sleeping routine: some time before the race, set a sleeping routine. From experience, some athletes have to take a bowl of carb-rich snack; dim the lights, read a book or do a bit of light stretching. Whatever you routine is, keep up with it and you will have no problem sleeping before your running day.
Only visualize success: if your nerves are having their night and would not allow a single second of sleep, you may need to redirect your thoughts. Think about starting your race strongly and gearing up to the finishing line. Visualize the crowd cheering and you just broke record. Even before it comes to this happy ending, you will be roaming in slumber land.
Do not give it much of a thought: Anxiety can keep you awake the entire night and you will be like, “How can I run fast and win when I cannot get a single wink of sleep”. Do not overthink about it. In fact, experienced
runners will tell you the best night you have to get a great sleep is not the immediate one to the running; the one before it counts the most. One night sleep will not break your winning chance. Take it easy and you will just sleep as normal.
Be organized: it will be utterly difficult to get one minute of sleep if you are still thinking about what you will wear for your run. Get yourself organized. Start preparing early. Plan everything to the last minute before you go to bed. You will sleep soundly knowing that everything is ready for the big day.
Keep away from stimulants: the evening prior to your running day, be mindful of what beverages you take. It would seem harmless to take a one bottle of whitecap but the consequences are far reaching. Alcohol may make
you drowsy at first but it will disrupt your deep sleep.
Watch your diet: nutritionists and dieticians recommend a light meal the night and morning before you run. Heavy meals, especially fatty and spicy kinds, will have a lot of digestion to be done before you can find some sleep.
Be consistent with your sleep pattern: if you are always in bed by 10 p.m., ensure that is the time you go to bed during training and the night before you run. This consistency will ensure that your sleep pattern is not
disrupted the time it matters most.
Sleep in a cool and dark room: studies show that you can sleep better in a relatively cold and dark room. In one such experiment testing the quality of sleep in a cold and dark room versus a warm and lighter room, researchers found out that those who were sleeping in the dark and cod room recorded a quality sleep as compared to their counterparts in the other room. It was unanimously agreed that 18 degrees is the best temperature to tap into the benefits of sleep especially for runners.
FAQs about sleep and running
The subject about pre-race sleep has been hotly debated in different forums. While most of the issues have been addressed through research and experiments, there is still a backlog of questions that are yet to be fully addressed.
To keep you abreast some of the contentious issues on this subject, here are Frequently Asked Questions on the importance of pre-race sleep:
How really does sleep affect my running performance?
How do you feel when you wake and you did not have adequate and comfortable sleep? Your day will be a bad one. You will doze off during the day, your mood will be sour and generally you will not be at your best. You may not be a runner but lack of adequate sleep could affect you this much. What about an athlete who is to run the following day? The effects get worse and it will definitely have an adverse effect on your track performance.
Does it mean without a good pre-race sleep that my performance will be below par?
Shockingly, the last night to your race does not affect much of your performance, at least on the issue to do with how you sleep. Research has indicated that your pre-race nerves have a lot to do with how well or badly you perform on the race. After all, you do not have to stress much over your last night’s sleep to your race; its contribution to your success is very insignificant.
How long should you sleep the night before the race?
Interestingly, this question keeps popping up in different forums and people never seem to get satisfying answers. As said earlier in the body of this article, every individual is unique and sleep requirements vary from one person to the next. There are those who will sleep for nine hours and be good to go. Others will sleep for 6 hours and the following day be the first to cross the finishing line.
It all boils down to the individual. But one thing is for sure. During the training and the period leading to the last day, adequate sleep will directly affect your performance. Whatever you do, make sure that you sleep adequately not only for the night before but all the other nights leading to the race.
The Bottom Line
Running and sleep have a correlation. Athletes who follow who a strict sleeping routine have 50% better chances of good performance than their counterparts who do not give serious thought about how and when they sleep. Since it gives you a competitive advantage to get adequate sleep during your training and the nights leading to your race, it would be advisable that you get serious with your sleeping routine.
Spending time with athletes has given me an insight into what compounds to success on the track. Everyone thinks that rigorous training is all that matters to winning a running race. You will be shocked to know that training only contributes to less that 50% of the final success. There is a lot to winning a race than what meets the eye.
Do you make a habit of getting a good nights sleep before a race? How do you think sleep effects your race day performance?