Getting Sleep the Night Before an Event

, , | UltraRob | Monday, April 5th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

It is common to not be able to sleep well the night before a race or even a non-competitive event that pushes our limits. When I was younger and racing nearly every weekend, I did get to the point where I’d sleep quite well. Now that I’m only doing a few long events a year, I have more trouble. It doesn’t help that I don’t seem to sleep as well as I used to.

Several nights of poor sleep will likely affect performance but studies have shown though that if it’s just the night before a race, not sleeping well doesn’t affect the ability to perform well. What it can affect is the mental ability to push to the body to the limit. My personal experience has matched what the studies have found. If you want more details on the studies and the science of sleep, this article is a good read.

Events like 24 hour solo mountain bike races or 500+ mile RAAM qualifiers are tough enough mentally without throwing in lack of sleep the night before. Even something of the length of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race can get harder mentally as the day wears on. I’ve tried 3 things to help me sleep well the night before an event.

REM Caps

REM Caps from Hammer Nutrition contain Melatonin, herbs and other nutrients to naturally aid in sleep. I’ve had mixed results with REM caps.

As long as I get to sleep within an hour of taking REM caps and don’t get woken up in the first hour or two after going to bed, they seem to work very well. If for some reason I’m up later than planned or I get woken up soon after going to sleep, I actually seem to sleep worse than if I didn’t take them. Using REM caps in the week leading up to an event works well for me so I’m more rested.


Ambien is a prescription sleep aid and comes in 2 versions. There’s the regular and a CR version that is timed release and contains more medication. The regular version only lasts 4-5 hours for me and then I wake up so I take the CR version. My wife on the other hand has trouble waking up after 8 hours even with just the regular version.

I sleep well with Ambien CR although I still may wake up a time or two throughout the night. The downside is that sometimes I feel a bit foggy mentally for a few hours after waking. It’s not bad but I just don’t feel 100% focused. It may be because I take the CR version.


Lunesta is another prescription sleep aid. I sleep really well with it and wake up clear mentally.

It’s downside for me is I get a really nasty, bitter taste in my mouth the entire day after taking it. From searching the web, it seems this is a common side effect. It doesn’t bother me with solid foods much but can be bad with certain drinks. Since I use nearly all liquid nutrition during races, it can be tough to drink enough. I even find it hard to drink plain water because of the taste.

Since the last 2 are prescription medications, you’ll have to get your doctor to write a prescription. If you decide to try something to sleep better before an event whether it’s prescription or not, make sure to try it out several times before the event. You don’t want to have side effects and end up ruining your event.

Do you have some method that works for you to sleep well the night before an event? Please leave it in the comments below.


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3 responses to “Getting Sleep the Night Before an Event”

  1. Fonk says:

    I don't take it very often, but I've found melatonin helps me, too. However, I'd save yourself some money and just buy one of the comman varieties at Walgreens or something. Same melatonin as REM Caps, but a helluva lot cheaper.

  2. UltraRob says:

    Melatonin by itself is much cheaper than REM Caps. I think they do work better though with the other ingredients but then maybe it's one of them that's causing issues if I get woken up. Maybe I should try just plain melatonin the night before a race.

  3. James says:

    Hello All – I have a physical agility test for a police department tomorrow and I’m a bit nervous, but I need my rest. Any suggestions?? I was thinking about a simple glass of wine before bed! lol

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