How to Get the Best Sleep of Your Life Before the Wedding
When developing a pre-wedding wellness regimen, don't underestimate the power of sleep—it's one of the most important things you can do for high energy, low stress, glowing skin, and peak health. Those restful hours are when our bodies repair ourselves, physically and emotionally, and prepare us for the next day. But before you stress out about not getting enough sleep, know that one night of little sleep won't affect you much, says Dr. Jennifer Martin, associate professor of medicine at UCLA and president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. What's important is developing a routine of restful sleep. Here, we talk with her about how to make the most of those essential hours before your wedding.
Create the ideal environment for productive sleep.
According to Dr. Martin, you should always try to sleep in a quiet room, but if it can't be quiet—say, because you live on a busy street—invest in a white noise machine. "Most people sleep better in a room that's cool, in the low to mid 60s. Have blankets on hand so you can adjust your temperature if you get hot or cold in the middle of the night," she explains. Next, think about the brightness—or, ideally, the lack thereof—in your space. "The room should be dark; light is disruptive to sleep," Dr. Martin says.
What you sleep on matters, too, but Dr. Martin says the mattress, pillows, and sheets you select really come down to preference—"there's no magic recipe for that," she says—but they should be comfortable and help you feel relaxed. That also goes for your room as a whole: This space should help you unwind and disconnect from stress. In other words, "it shouldn't also be the place where you stress over every last wedding detail," Dr. Martin says. "You want to be able to disconnect from that stress. It's important to stop doing things so you can disconnect and unwind. You want to feel like there's a buffer zone between day and night."
Stay off your devices.
It can be hard to disconnect from social media, but it's important to put down your devices—and turn off your TV—for at least the last 30 minutes leading up to your ideal bedtime. "Our bodies have an internal clock, and the thing that helps that clock stay set to a 24-hour day is exposure to light," Dr. Martin says. "If you're shining a brightly lit screen in your face, it tells your internal clock the day hasn't ended yet. Over time, the body will adjust and think the day ends later than it does." While there are features on most devices that filter or tone down light at night, Dr. Martin says the simple act of using these products so close to bed makes it hard to relax, so do your best to unplug and pick up a book instead.
Figure out what helps you relax.
You've created your ideal sleep environment and you've banned phones from the bedroom, but you still can't fall asleep. What gives? Dr. Martin says you need to work on figuring out what you can do to relax before bed. "Exactly what you do to unwind is up to you. I like to spend a few minutes reading a good book, some people like to listen to music," she says. "You can also have a cup of herbal tea, but I wouldn't drink a lot of liquids before bed."
Minimize caffeine intake in the afternoon.
Depending on how quickly you metabolize caffeine—Dr. Martin says it's five hours for most people, but can take up to ten hours for others—an afternoon cup of Joe might be doing you more harm than good. "The last half of the day, when people reach for coffee in the late afternoon when they're kind of worn out, can disrupt sleep," she says. "A better solution is to go for a quick walk, which can be more activating and has no negative effects."
The same goes for alcohol.
"When you first consume alcohol, it's sedating. People tend to feel tired and relaxed. But the way alcohol is metabolized disrupts sleep," Dr. Martin says. But if you keep enjoying glasses of wine and cocktails, you're going to negatively impact your chances of getting quality sleep. "The more you drink, the more disruptive it is, so pre-wedding, limit the amount of alcohol you consume."
Determine your ideal bedtime.
"The time someone sleeps best is dictated by their internal clock, not a clock on wall," explains Dr. Martin, which means your ideal bedtime might not be the same as your partner's, and that's okay. "Your internal clock tendencies are genetically determined—there's some flexibility, but some people have a strong preference one way or another and have difficulty shifting." As long as you're getting at least seven hours of sleep, it doesn't matter if you're going to bed at ten and waking up at six or going to bed at midnight and waking up at weight. "There are serious health consequences for sleeping less than seven hours per night," Dr. Martin says, but some people may find they need much more than that. "I tell people to use their own internal sensations to find out how much they need. There's an experiment you can do: take a long weekend, and for three nights, sleep when you feel tired and until you naturally wake up the next morning, without an alarm clock. The first two nights you'll probably sleep more, because you're in a sleep debt, but on the third night, however long you sleep is probably what you need day to day."
Learn how to track your sleep.
While there are plenty of devices that claim to track how much sleep you're getting—and the quality of your sleep—Dr. Martin says it's tough to say how accurate these tools are. Still, there are things you can do to track your own rest, and one of the most effective ways to do so is to simply write down when you get in and out of bed. "We do well when we're accountable to ourselves. Just like when we keep track of what we eat, we make healthier food choices, writing down when we sleep can improve sleep habits," she explains. "If you're setting a goal to spend enough time in bed, whether with a diary or an app, those can both be helpful self-monitoring tools."