5 Tips to Help You Fall Asleep the Night Before Your Big Race

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

It’s the night before the big race and you are staring wide-eyed at the inside of your eyelids, thinking, panicking, and thinking some more. Did I prepare enough? I wish I hadn’t missed that couple of days of workouts when I got sick. My competitor looked really good at finals tonight. Is that coach snoring four rooms down? 

Having prepared for months, thrown all of our effort into this one big swim, we often work ourselves up from over-analyzing everything from how we felt in the water that day to our shave down job. All this nervous energy ends up keeping us awake long into the night, throwing glances at the digital clock while telling ourselves if we fall asleep right this moment we can still get X hours of sleep.

Here are 5 strategies to help you fall asleep a little quicker at the big meet:

1. Avoid screens. When you stare into your cell phone or tablet in bed, you are sending your body mixed signals. On the one hand it’s the end of the day, you’re tired, the lights are dimmed, and you should be powering down soon. On the other, the artificial light from the screen is also suppressing melatonin production, which makes it harder for you to fall asleep. While it may be hard to quench that insatiable desire to text your buddy, doing so means giving your body a fighting chance at going under quicker.

2. Set up a nighty-night-night routine. Think of it as your sleepy time countdown. Starting long before the meet get into the habit of doing the same 4-5 things every night before you go to bed. This routine primes your body for sleepy time, and is especially helpful for when you aren’t in the comfort of your own home, and are sleeping in new surroundings. The cues brings a dose of familiarity to an unfamiliar sleeping arrangement.

Here is an example:

  1. Brush teeth.
  2. Prepare bag for next day.
  3. Set alarm.
  4. Read for ten minutes.
  5. Have a few gulps of water.
  6. Lights out.

3. Write out the stuff on your mind. Trying to get your brain to calm down is difficult the night before the big race. You’re thinking back to your prep, to how you’re feeling, over-analysing every last piece of your training and how you’ve swum so far in the competition. A simple way to flush this hyper self-talk is to write it all out before you get into bed. Take a few minutes and write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up and put in a desk drawer or in the other room. Doing this has the effect of expunging yourself of those thoughts, and allowing your brain to settle.

4. Do some light stressing, err, stretching. If you are feeling tense and stressed out, engage in some easy stretching to loosen up your muscles. It is always easier to pass out when you are relaxed, and stretching has the added benefit of helping you recover from competition that day. If stretching isn’t your thing, pick a couple other relaxing activities to engage in before bed. Reading, for example.

5. Plan for success with your sleeping arrangements. Mark Tewksbury, Canadian Olympic champion in the 100 backstroke in 1992, swore by a pillow that he dragged with him around the world to various competitions. Prepare yourself by bringing your favorite pillow and/or blanket. Arrange to have a fan in the room if there is no AC and you like to have a cold room. You know how you sleep best, so emulate those same conditions so that you can get a full night of rest and beat that personal best like it owes you money.

About YourSwimBook

YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.

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USMS Open Water Swimmer
7 years ago

Sexual activities always helps me to relax before a big day. Before you get upset, I’m a married USMS swimmer blessed with a spouse that also swims

8 years ago

I hear stillnox can work

ahmad al taee
9 years ago

السلام عليكم
انا احمد يوسف الطائي
من العراق
مدرب سباحة على مستوى العراق واحب السباحة لمسافات طويلة ارجو ان كان هناك اي بلد عربي او اوروبي بحاجة الى مدرب او مساعد مدرب ذو خبرة المراسلة على هذا الاميل
شكرا لكم

Reply to  ahmad al taee
7 years ago


About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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