How To Create A Sleep Schedule
No less than three weeks before the wedding, create a sleep cycle for yourself. This means pick a bed time (like you would for a child), and a time to wake up each day. Then stick to it — even on the weekends. We know it’s hard to resist the urge of sleeping in late on Saturday, but Dr. Helene Emsellem, Director of The Center for Sleep & Wake Disorders and a Clinical Professor of Neurology, says to try not to waver too much on the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. At most, you should be waking up and going to bed each night within the same two-hour window. And, even if you don’t fall asleep at the right time, you should wake up at your designated wake time to stick to your schedule, adds Dr. Michael Breus, Diplomate and Fellow of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and author of Beauty Sleep.
With all of the sleep expertise on our hands, we also ended up with a short list of tips to getting better sleep in the days leading up to the wedding. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them (like don’t drink coffee before bed) but if you’re serious about getting good sleep before the wedding, read them and make them apart of your sleep routine.
1. Get Sunlight
Every morning, get at least 15 minutes of sunlight. “Even if it is a cloudy day, just going outside and getting some of those UV rays is good. Because the sun resets your internal clock — what we call your circadian rhythm,” says Dr. Breus.
2. Wind Down
As early as an hour before you go to bed, and no later than fifteen minutes before you sleep, you should create a wind-down routine. That means dimming the lights, switching off your emails, maybe listening to a comforting playlist and disengaging from the world. “Dimming the lights helps your brain get the clue that you’re going to try to sleep,” says Dr. Emsellem. “Going from bright light to darkness is very difficult.”
3. Start Exercising
“Exercise is a known stress reducer and a known sleep improver,” says Dr. Breus. “People who excersize regularly have a higher quality of sleep.” If you want to take this a step further, you can even try doing a few relaxing yoga poses before bed with some meditation to help you get in a restful mood.
4. Quit the Caffeine
We’re not saying you need to toss out your Keurig, but it may be helpful to switch to decaf and avoid chocolate, soda and some teas after 4 p.m. Dr. Breus even recommends avoiding caffeine before 2 p.m. “Most people don’t realize that caffeine has a half-life of between 8 to 10 hours and it can affect your ability to fall asleep as well as your ability to stay asleep,” he adds.
5. Avoid Alcohol
“Some people think it’s a good idea to have a few glasses of wine before bed, but that never turns out particularly well,” explains Dr. Breus. “Your sleep quality will go down, and you’ll get dehydrated, so I always dissuade the idea of alcohol. It just doesn’t work.”
6. Pull the Plug on Your Electronics
For some of us, the blue light found in tablets and phones actually signals daytime to our brains, says Dr. Jordan Stern of The Comprehensive Sleep and Snoring Center in New York, NY. Disengaging from social media, emails and text messages will also draw your mind away from the types of thoughts that can jolt you back into a state of anxious wakefulness. “The idea that one can go from working and doing things to immediately falling asleep is fraught with problems,” Dr. Emsellem says. “It’s really hard to switch modes directly from awake activity to sleep.”
7. Soothe Yourself
Doctors suggest getting your mind ready for sleep with a hot bath or warm shower before your bed time, which increases your body’s core temperature before dramatically dropping it. This gives a cue to your body that you’re ready for bed. Add the scent of lavender to the bath, or drink a cup of chamomile tea to truly let the calming effect sink in.
8. Write Down a List of To-Dos
“Our minds are very powerful and if you’re drifting off to sleep, but you start to think and worry, your heart rate goes up, your respiratory rate goes up, you sweat, you get anxious and all of those things are counter-productive to sleep,” says Dr. Emsellem. If your mind is still racing as you’re hopping into bed, get out a pen and paper and write down the list of things that are keeping you up with potential solutions. “One thing I have my brides do the night before the wedding is write down a list of all the things they have concerns about, then jotting down a quick solution,” says Dr. Breus. “The solution could be as simple as calling your planner to deal with the situation in the morning.” As long as your brain feels like you’ve addressed the problem, and created a solution, you have a good chance of letting it go. “The fact of the matter is that you can’t do anything about it at night except worry.”
9. Distract Yourself
If all else fails, really try to distract yourself. Create a sleep playlist using songs without any words, or with soothing sounds to keep your mind off the things that are keeping it up. Then practice progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing muscles consecutively, from your toes to your head. “Start with your feet and curl your toes, then relax them, then flex your feet backwards toward your head, then relax, then move to your calves and your thighs, all the way up to your head,” Dr. Breus says. “By going through this process, you reduce your level of stress and anxiety. I usually have people practice this at least a week before the wedding, so they get used to it.”
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