Anne at Complete Running has recently written an article about how to get a good night’s sleep, especially before a big race. She lists a few points, not all of which I agree with. She does mention that it is important to get sleep two nights before and not the night before a race, which I do agree with. Sleep generally affects you about 36 hours later, so the sleep you need for a marathon tends to be a couple days prior and preferably the full week prior.
The full list with my responses:
- Yes: Be consistent when you go to bed and when you wake up. I strongly agree with this point, and think that a regular sleep schedule can be one of the more important training tools that an athlete has available to them after their diet. It is also important to accurately determine how much sleep that you need and not to sleep too often.
- Yes/No: Don’t drink coffee or alcohol or use some non-drowsy medications before bed. This can be good advice, especially in regards to caffeine or other drugs that keep you from being drowsy. Alcohol can affect different people in different ways, though. Generally speaking, you may not have much trouble falling asleep with a beer in you, but you will probably be a little more restless than you would have been without the booze.
- No: Eat dinner several hours before bedtime. I completely disagree with this advice. You should never go to bed hungry. Some people may not sleep well if there is anything in their stomach, but active people need the fuel and if you can’t sleep because your stomach is growling at you then you are wasting your time laying in bed. Having a healthy snack before going to sleep could help you to sleep better, and will certainly leave you in better shape for a morning workout than if you went to bed hungry.
- No: Don’t nap. This depends upon the person and when the nap takes place. Napping in the middle of the day for a short period of time could lead to a more productive day and better sleep in the evening. Taking a 2 hour nap right before dinner probably would lead to being restless at night, however. The people who manage to successfully adopt a polyphasic sleep schedule tend to sleep better and require less sleep than those of us that hibernate for 7 or 8 hours every night, but it is hard to keep a schedule that nobody else follows.
- No: Don’t run or exercise close to bedtime. This is a myth, pure and simple. Exercising before bed may cause some trouble sleeping for some people, but in most cases it will not affect you or will improve the quality of your sleep. If the choice is between exercising late at night before sleeping or not exercising at all, then you are better off getting at least an easy workout in. Just be sure to have something to eat between the workout and going to bed, and that you do not completely engorge yourself or down something that is full of caffeine.
- Yes/No: If you can’t sleep, get up and read or watch TV. This is good advice, but I recommend against watching television before going to sleep or when you can not sleep. It can lead to eye strain and restless sleep, not to mention that you may fall asleep at an awkward angle or affect the sleep of others in your household with excessive noise. Looking at a magazine or a book or changing your sleeping location is more likely to help you fall asleep.
- Yes: Try not to think about stressful events or duties. Good advice that I can not argue with.