|DL1IAO Notes on Sleep Strategy and Contest Diets|
In CQ WW CW 2000 I went 48h straight for the first time. I took a short break after the first 24h for a light meal, shower and fresh air outside but I did not sleep. I felt alert for the first 40-42h but lost concentration during the last 6 hours. This was mainly due to the high bands closing to US and the rate dropping abruptly. At that time I did much better with CQing rather than S&P where I tended to just listen to stations, but not working them. I did not realize this for quite a while and was not able to draw any consequences like taking short breaks or rethinking strategy. However, I did not feel sleepy in the meaning of that my eyes would close but I began to stare at the radio display or the rotor control box at times, or tune the VFO way outside the CW bands. At the end my concentration returned completely and I needed one full hour to process the contest and fall asleep.
The following thoughts reflect my personal observations:
- As a young guy you should be able to go 24h straight at any time after a regular working week with normal sleep cycles. However, at age 13-16 I had difficulties doing this.
- The same is true for 36h contests as you may, for example, divide your off-time into 2 full 6 hour epochs to catch up with sleep.
- If you plan on a straight 48h effort I agree with K5ZD that you must want to do it very badly. Getting psyched several days/weeks before helps to build up a great amount of motivation which you will need during the contest. The longer and more thoroughly you have planned the higher will be the mental barrier to quit when condx/rate/station/alertness go downhill.
- Being in good physical shape and sleeping a lot the week before does help!
- I usually donīt feel too hungry and like to eat fruits (bananas, apples), yoghurt and sandwiches I have prepared before or prepare during my off times. If you are a "sweet" guy chocolate or cookies make you feel full and may give back concentration.
- I prefer to drink mineral water and juice, some coffee - if available - or coke (not too much). Lately I discovered a yogurt/juice drink which tastes delicious and provides all ingredients to replace a meal. Pretty good for breakfast! During the 2nd 24h my need for caffeine seems to increase, especially on Sunday morning around sunrise.
- If you feel extremely sleepy but the bands are still hot, stand up, run around, catch some fresh air or take a shower to get refreshed.
- Once you have decided to sleep waking up after multiples of 90min epochs really is easier. Sometimes as little as 10-20min of sleep can be enough to get back into business. But donīt forget to purchase 2 solid mechanical alarm clocks which cannot be ignored.
- Print out and prepare rate/propagation/summary sheets of previous years or of your competition and continously compare with your actual score.
- Set many little goals to the end of the contest. Try to break the next 100K points, 100 QSOs, 10 multipliers etc.
- Watch your total score moving beyond the next million and enjoy the feeling. Relax for 10sec, get your favourite sweets and then: BREAK THE NEXT MILLION!
- Finally: Consider radio contesting as sport and STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS! Good operators do not need them for winning, anyway!