What If I Can't Sleep the Night Before a Marathon?

Man can't sleep
Biggie Productions

"I'm so nervous about my marathon that I'm worried I won't be able to sleep the night before. Will lack of sleep the night before my marathon affect my performance in the marathon?"

Pre-marathon insomnia is a very common issue. I've never been able to sleep well the night before a marathon. But as long as you've been getting good sleep the week leading up to your marathon, you'll be well-rested, and insomnia the night before the marathon won't affect your performance.

The pre-race adrenaline rush will help you feel alert and ready-to-go for your race.

Steps for a Good Night's Sleep

Some runners have trouble sleeping the night before because they're anxious about the race. Here are some steps to take to try to reduce your anxiety and get some rest:

  • To limit pre-race anxiety, make sure you lay everything you need out the night before the marathon. Remember the "nothing new on race day" rule. Your race outfit and race nutrition should all be items that you've tried out in training runs. Use this marathon packing list to make sure you don't forget anything.
  • If you have to be up for your race at a time that's earlier than you're used to, try to gradually shift your sleep schedule in the days leading up to the marathon so that you're going to bed and waking up earlier. That way, it won't feel like a dramatic change when you try to hit the hay much earlier than usual on the night before your race.
  • Make sure you finish eating a few hours before you're ready to go to bed. If you eat too close to bedtime, you may have a harder time following asleep.
  • Start winding down for bedtime early in the evening. Do something relaxing like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a hot bath before turning in for the night.
  • If you're traveling to a different time zone for your race, try some of these steps to help reduce jet lag.
  • Avoid watching TV or going on your computer or phone right before bedtime. Spending time on social media or playing computer games will make it harder to fall asleep.

If you try these steps and you're still having trouble falling asleep the night before a marathon, don't get up and do something, like watch TV or walk around. Just lie in bed so that your body, and especially your legs, are still getting rest. Getting less sleep than you're used to won't affect your performance. You'll actually be amazed at how the excitement of the race makes you feel awake and ready-to-go.


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