8 steps to beat pre-race insomnia

Originally published on The Running Bug

Can’t sleep the night before a big race? Put your feet up, switch off and unwind with our essential insomnia tips for runners.

Lay out your kit

Your pals on social media carefully lay out their kit the night before a race for a good reason. It may look like a marketing exercise, but kit-layouts are also really useful for ensuring your essentials are all in order, ready for you to jump straight into when you wake up on the morning of your race.

The encouraging messages that follow from your online buddies are just an added bonus. It’s also a handy way to gently remind/pester friends and family to sponsor you if you’re running for charity

Switch everything off

Once you’ve posted your kit-layout and spent a few minutes feeling warm inside from all of the supportive messages, switch your damn phone off. And the TV, and the laptop, and anything emanating even the tiniest bit of light. Electronic lights trick your brain into thinking its daytime and mess with your circadian rhythm, making it harder for you to drift off to sleep.

Pretend it’s the 1800’s and you have to rely on candlelight to survive life out on the frontier. Live like a monk for your last night. It might be boring, but you’re more likely to drift off to sleep without any distractions.


Easier said than done, but you’re soon to put your body through some serious exertion, so relaxation is essential. Cancel the dinner out, order a pizza, dim the lights and do whatever it takes to chill the f*** out.

Stop worrying

If you only get three hour’s sleep and spend the night tossing and turning, it’s OK. Not sleeping won’t kill you or sabotage your race. As long as you rested well and taperedover the past fortnight, one bad night’s sleep is not the end of the world. You will be so pumped up on adrenaline during the race that it will fly by.

If you wake up knackered take caffeine gels, drink coffee, knuckle down and get on it with. You can sleep later, clutching your shiny new medal.

Trust in your training plan

Resist the urge to obsess over every detail of your race, and have faith that you are exactly where you need to be. You did the work, you ran the miles, you put in the groundwork. Now is time to rest, because tomorrow the fun starts!

Legs up, Kenyan style

Famed for lying down horizontally on rest days, Kenyan athletes know a thing or two about nailing a race. Make sure your legs are up, you’re in the comfiest position possible, and you’re feeling utterly, gloriously chilled. Even if you can’t sleep, your body is resting which is the main thing.

Once you’ve achieved the optimum resting position, repeat after me: ‘I am resting with the power of Eliud Kipchoge. I am a running warrior. I am going to sleep soundly and then run the best race of my life.’

Don’t get drunk

Treat yourself to a glass of wine or a small beer over dinner if you’re struggling to unwind, but resist the urge to drink the whole bottle. Alcohol messes with sleep, and killer hangovers don’t lend themselves well to PBs. You’ll thank yourself tomorrow if you stay sober, and you can get absolutely leathered once you’ve finished the race.

Get it on

Should you enjoy some high jinx the night before a race? The debate continues, but arguably a little low-impact extra loving with your other half will help you relax and unwind. Just resist the urge to try out any crazy new positions and suggest your partner takes the lead. You’re running a big race tomorrow, you have a very good excuse to be lazy and get them to do the leg work. Once you’ve claimed your medal and had a good wash, you can return the favour.