How to Sleep the Night Before a Big Day
Anxiety, adrenaline and a wandering, worried mind serve to steal your sleep the night before a big event—a problem if you need to be alert and awake the next day, such as for your own wedding.
Sleep relies on your brain’s ability to let go. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Sleep Physiology study, scientists know that sleep is regulated by the interplay of two main processes—one that promotes sleep and one that maintains wakefulness. Mess either of these up, and you’re awake half the night.
Worse, you don’t want to take medication, feel groggy or oversleep on the big day either. So where does that leave you?
“Count you breaths or toe wiggles,” says Murray Grossan, MD, author of Stressed? Anxiety? Your Cure is in the Mirror. “Yes, counting sheep works. It’s best to count to an inhale of four and an exhale of six. When the exhale is longer than the inhale, it sends a strong message to the amygdala to relieve stress. Counting takes your mind away from thoughts of interviews or finances,” says Grossan. (The amygdala is a set of neurons deep in the brain that are responsible for emotions.)
The more anxious you make yourself about not sleeping, the more sleep will elude you.
“Drop the internal dialogue about what a horrible day you will have tomorrow if you don’t get to sleep immediately,” says Nancy Gerstein, a yoga teacher and the author of Guiding Yoga’s Light. The key to sound sleep lies in surrendering, not in trying harder. Once you’re in bed, focus on your breath and clear your mind.
“If you have a mantra, let your mind rest in it,” says Gerstein. Try “Breathe, release, sleep.”
Review Your To-Dos
“When it comes to a wedding or a big presentation at work, a lot of people worry about what they have to do or if they’ve forgotten something, which can keep them up at night,” says Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute. Write a list and check things off throughout the day.
“Before you go to bed, review that list to put your mind at ease that things are taken care of,” says Oexman.
“Your typical routines around waking up and falling asleep are called zeitgebers, which are environmental cues that reset your internal clock,” says Oexman. They include light exposure, exercise, when you eat and when you brush your teeth. Establish a bedtime routine a month before your big day to help you better fall asleep the night before.
“Consider the smell of lavender or a hot shower, whatever it is that works for you. If you incorporate these things into a routine each night before you go to bed, you’re giving your body a cue that it’s time to go to sleep,” says Oexman.
Put Pen to Paper
It might seem old fashioned, but pull out a memo pad and jot down your worries, such as being afraid you’ll trip walking down the aisle.
“Write down all that bugs you the night before to get it off your head,” says Brad Hines, a life hacker, productivity coach and founder of NerdPlayThings.
Sleep cannot be forced, but it can be coaxed.
“Allow yourself to come to it, enter it, and let the world spin without you for a while,” says Gerstein.
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