Top tips for athletes to get their rest before a big competition

To celebrate the renewal of our partnership with the British Athletes Commission (BAC), we put athletes’ questions on sleep in a Q&A to Mammoth ambassador and renowned Lecturer in Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford, Dr Nicola Barclay. 

BAC: Usually the athletes the night before competing there’s a lot of excitement, there’s a lot of nerves, what top tips can you share for athletes that night before competing?

NB: Yeah, of course the night before a competition is going to be pretty stressful, maybe you’re excited, nervous, probably a bit of both – there’s enough to be worrying about and it’s counterproductive to also add worrying about sleep into the mix. We know that stress really interferes with sleep, you’ll probably be quite surprised to hear that one night of poor sleep actually has very little impact on performance the next day, so if you sleep poorly the night before a competition simply don’t stress it. What’s more important is the sleep in the weeks leading up to the competition, so if you have a stable sleep routine in the weeks before competing – optimising the bedroom environment, being strict with caffeine and alcohol intake, making sure you have enough opportunity for sleep, then you’ll have a strong basis for performance even if you have a poor night before your competition.

Now, there might be some tendency to want to bank sleep and try to extend your sleep period by perhaps getting an early night, and this can be difficult if we’ve trained our brains that there’s a specific time for sleep – see I’m always going on about having set routines. But if we followed the rules of stimulus control and only using the bed for sleep, then going to bed early can be achieved and we can get a little more sleep, the brain will think okay so I’m in bed all I do here is sleep’ and you may be able to get in an extra half hour or so, but the key thing here really is don’t stress about your sleep – you will get some and it will be enough. The real decrements in performance come when we consistently get poor or insufficient sleep whereas one night won’t knock us.

At Mammoth we know good night’s sleep starts with the right mattress. Explore our selection of premium mattresses right here on our site, or explore our blog for more updates about the latest sleep news and advice.