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Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Sep 19, 2023 6:44 pm
by Aress
Hey guys,

I doing this post so as to gather your experience on something that has been really bothering me for my racing.

How do you manage the pre race stress, the night before ?
I can't manage to sleep (like 4h before a race) and its been really damaging my performance

I've tried going to sleep earlier, melatonine and so one and it doesnt work.

Do you have any protips, to have a great pre race sleep ?

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Sep 19, 2023 8:23 pm
by voicycle
This is absolutely not the permanent fix answer, but if it's a gravel race where we're all camping at the event site and things are likely to be noisy and also not get dark til later than I want to go to bed then I take diphenhydramine which is an OTC sleeping pill (it's also the same chemical and dose as benadryl so it's really actually an antihistamine). I also use earplugs and an eye mask in the tent.

Sleep quality is never as good as when I sleep naturally, but 8 hours on diphenhydramine is definitely better than the 3-4 hours I'd get without it.

Lately I appear to have developed a really strong pyschological association between wearing foam earplugs and sleeping, so I'm now able to get pretty good sleep in wildly varying conditions as long as I put them in - no pharmeceuticals required. No idea how long I'll be able to maintain that connection, but I'm pretty thrilled about it for now.

In that vein, addressing race anxiety and developing really good sleep hygiene with really consistent routines and habits for a month or so before the race is probably the 'real' solution.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Sep 19, 2023 8:23 pm
by Weenie

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Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Sep 19, 2023 8:37 pm
by voicycle
Follow up:
Don't try sleeping pills the night before a real race if you've never used them before. Many can impair you to the point that it's like being drunk, so it could be downright dangerous to start a race if you get hit particularly hard by one of those drugs and it hasn't worn off yet.

In terms of 'addressing race anxiety' as I mentioned before, there are a lot of deeper things like race visualisation and other CBT techniques which are incredibly worthwhile getting into, but also don't underestimate the power of something as simple as dialling your race prep routine and doing the same things in the same order every single time. Practice it in training too. Get meticulous, right down to where you pack your socks in your bag, how/where you lay out your spares the night before, etc. etc. etc. Not only will that help your brain to know that everything is as it should be, it's also a good failsafe to ensure you don't forget anything (but making and ticking off a written list is still good too - and depending on your learning/personality type a list might actually provide more comfort than a routine.)

For the bigger deeper stuff I'd go looking into the archives of the TrainerRoad podcast, and in particular to the episodes that had Amber Pearce on them. I'm sure you'll find some if you search something like race anxiety or race prep or similar - I'm sure I recall her sharing loads of really good stuff that she picked up over years of working with really expensive sports psychologists.

Hope that helps!

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:13 pm
by RadB
For me, and carried over from another anxiety inducing sport, I use plans and checklists to ensure things are squared away, my thoughts and concerns are cleared, and necessary things checked off. Not just the day before, but the weeks leading up to, and the immediate days preceding it e.g. Final training during taper, day -3 nutrition and hydration plan up to and including race day and recovery hydration and nutrition plan, course overview and a basic strategy of anticipating selection points and matching them with strengths, bike and equipment, clothing, tools and spares. It's not the end of it, but I know those aspects are locked down and the rest is on me.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:54 pm
by eucalyptus
RadB wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:13 pm
For me, and carried over from another anxiety inducing sport, I use plans and checklists to ensure things are squared away, my thoughts and concerns are cleared, and necessary things checked off. Not just the day before, but the weeks leading up to, and the immediate days preceding it e.g. Final training during taper, day -3 nutrition and hydration plan up to and including race day and recovery hydration and nutrition plan, course overview and a basic strategy of anticipating selection points and matching them with strengths, bike and equipment, clothing, tools and spares. It's not the end of it, but I know those aspects are locked down and the rest is on me.
That sounds really good. Thx for sharing, means I am not entirely alone feeling this way. I will definitely try this for next event. Last weekend I packed my bag 30 minutes before the train was leaving and forgot all my energy snacks...

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:59 pm
by Matt28NJ
RadB wrote:
Wed Sep 20, 2023 12:13 pm
I use plans and checklists to ensure things are squared away, my thoughts and concerns are cleared, and necessary things checked off.
Yes! Have a plan that allows for flexibility for real-world things to happen in the weeks leading to an event.

Plan out your equipment, food, schedule and work the plan. Have backup equipment tested and ready to go. Clean your bike, and treat it is therapy time :D

And, as voicycle mentioned, diphenhydramine.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu Sep 21, 2023 1:01 am
by LouisN
Aress wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2023 6:44 pm
Hey guys,

I doing this post so as to gather your experience on something that has been really bothering me for my racing.

How do you manage the pre race stress, the night before ?
I can't manage to sleep (like 4h before a race) and its been really damaging my performance

I've tried going to sleep earlier, melatonine and so one and it doesnt work.

Do you have any protips, to have a great pre race sleep ?
What's your racing background, experience ?
IMO using drugs is the worst advice imaginable.
You have to work on what's causing you this.
Sports or performance psychologists are the people to reach for for answers.

Louis :)

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Fri Sep 22, 2023 7:34 pm
by timmerrr
I have struggled with this in the past. It may seem like a no brainer, but the more you race, the less this becomes a problem. I used to lay awake for hours before races thinking of all the possible situations. My heart rate would be sky high the morning of the race, etc. It also helps when you reach the top. Once you have done races at the highest level acheivable to you, anything else is a easy. In general, staying off your phone for a while before bed, not drinking booze, eating at least 3 hours before you want to go to sleep all help.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Sat Sep 23, 2023 3:43 am
by OnTheRivet
Aress wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2023 6:44 pm
Hey guys,

I doing this post so as to gather your experience on something that has been really bothering me for my racing.

How do you manage the pre race stress, the night before ?
I can't manage to sleep (like 4h before a race) and its been really damaging my performance

I've tried going to sleep earlier, melatonine and so one and it doesnt work.

Do you have any protips, to have a great pre race sleep ?
When I first started racing ( yikes 30 years go) I had this same problem. For me once I got a season under my belt (25 ish races) the issue cured itself. Repetition and familiarity remove the stress. Still would get a little stress from bigger races but I also had some great races on very ittle sleep.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2023 8:42 am
by maxim809
Experience (aka racing lots) helps solve pre-race sleep problems. I had a lot of problems sleeping during my first year, and it also didn't help that races were super early and required hours of driving. This meant waking up at 4am after struggling to sleep til past midnight.

What I've come to learn is that pre-race sleeping needs to be part of the tapering plan. If you know your sleep is going to be compromised from pre-race adrenaline and anxiety (totally expected), it needs to be planned at least 2 days in advanced, ideally more. One thing to try is to challenge yourself to wake up earlier than normal in 30~60minute increments in the week leading up to the race, so you can comfortably be tired the night before the race and fall asleep at a good time naturally, WITHOUT having compromised on good sleep as you try to adjust for your race-day sleep schedule.

As mentioned earlier, TR podcasts have lots of info around sleep hygiene (crank down AC to very low temperature, weighted blankets, screen time, avoiding alcohol, etc etc).

But I think the real heavy hitters are experience (art of NGAF while actually caring) and sleep taper strategy (fall asleep naturally the night before race day, with little to no compromise).

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2023 7:12 am
by Aress
Thank you guys for your replies,

I'm fairly new to riding (2 years more or less) and i've been racing since the start (about 10 races) so i'll follow your advice and just race more

Sleeping pils will the last resort, i really dont want to take anything

Thanks again

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2024 1:37 pm
by 1swiftvelo
For me the night before is the most important. I'm a stress ball of too many what if's.
Trying to keep your routine is best. Good luck. Sleeping pill's aren't the answer.

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2024 1:37 pm
by StijnPiel10
Also whats helpful to know: There's plenty of studies that show one bad night of sleep before a race does not impact performance. Below some links if you want to read about it in depth.
"A 2009 study found that athletes who ran a treadmill test after staying up for 30 hours experienced decreased endurance performance, however, the study concluded that the lowered performance was likely more psychological than physiological. One sleepless night seemed to alter the athlete’s perception of effort, not their physical output.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19543909/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23855065/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307962/

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu May 23, 2024 1:13 pm
by steve028
Aress wrote:
Tue Sep 19, 2023 6:44 pm
Hey guys,

I doing this post so as to gather your experience on something that has been really bothering me for my racing.

How do you manage the pre race stress, the night before ?
I can't manage to sleep (like 4h before a race) and its been really damaging my performance

I've tried going to sleep earlier, melatonine and so one and it doesnt work.

Do you have any protips, to have a great pre race sleep ?
I think a lot of people struggle with sleep the night before and to be honest I think you should'nt worry about it. In reality one nights poor sleep the night befoe a race is very unlikely to affect performance, just dont physch yourself out and remmeber everyone has the same problem. Prolonged stepp issues is totally different on the other hand, but you can definitely get away with one bad nights sleep before a race and not lose anything, especially if you coffee up :-)

Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu May 23, 2024 1:13 pm
by Weenie

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Re: Pre-race sleeping

Posted: Thu May 23, 2024 1:16 pm
by steve028
1swiftvelo wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2024 1:37 pm
For me the night before is the most important. I'm a stress ball of too many what if's.
Trying to keep your routine is best. Good luck. Sleeping pill's aren't the answer.
Totally agree