Spring into Sleep
Find a mattress that offers comfort and support. "A firm mattress isn't always best," explains Eric Montague, of Sealy. "Plush models also provide correct support. What counts is how your back feels when you lie on it." Also, size matters. "Queen-size beds are more comfortable for couples than full-size because they add five inches in length," says Robert Malin, of Serta. "The more room you have to move around, the better you'll sleep."
Choose Decor You Adore
"Your bedroom should be a place you look forward to sleeping in," says Stephen Devine, a feng shui consultant in Easthampton, MA. "The room should be as neat as possible. Clutter creates stagnation in your life." He suggests painting your room in warm colors (such as blush and rose) as opposed to harsh hues (stark white), and accenting the walls with serene art "to avoid a sterile feeling."
Eliminate the Electronics
According to Devine, televisions, stereos, and computers don't belong in a bedroom. "All of these things bring activated energy into the space, which is not conducive to sleeping."
Turn off the Lights
"Ideally, your bedroom should be very dark and quiet," says Margaret Moline, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorder Center at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center in White Plains. It should be a comfortable temperature (researchers suggest between 60 and 65 degrees) with good air circulation.
Lying in Wait
For most brides, the problem isn't falling asleep, it's waking up in the middle of the night with your mind an endless checklist of wedding-related errands that need completing. "Most people wake up roughly every 90 minutes for a few seconds," says Rafael Pelayo, M.D., assistant professor at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA. "If you're sleeping soundly every night and on a regular schedule, you don't even realize that you have woken up; but when you're suffering from insomnia, these mini-wakings will be enough to jolt you wide-awake because you're not getting deep, sound sleep to begin with." So how do you return to the Land of Nod? "Walk out of your bedroom for a few minutes and do something boring, like doodling on a notepad or listening to soothing music," advises Dr. Pelayo. "These activities promote rest." Just don't look at the clock. "It will make you start to worry that it's late and you're not sleeping," he says. "The brain translates worry into a message that says 'stay awake.' "
One of the best ways to combat insomnia is to deal with the problem before hitting the sack. "Lock into a wake-up time and stick to it for at least eight weeks before the wedding," advises Dr. Pelayo. "Then, go to bed a half-hour later than usual. Take 20 minutes of that extra half-hour before bed and sit alone with your thoughts. Consider it your worry time." Use this break to write a to-do list with everything on it. "After 20 minutes, tell yourself, 'I am done with my day. Whatever's unfinished I will pick up tomorrow,' " he says. "During the last ten minutes, do something that you enjoy, like reading for pleasure or having a cup of herbal tea, then go to bed. You should fall asleep easily since your mind will be clear."
Food for Thought
When the nighttime munchies attack—stress will do that to you—make sure you don't eat something that will make your insomnia worse. Here are some nocturnal noshes to avoid:
Pass on anything that contains jalapeños or cayenne pepper. These hot seasonings act as circulatory stimulants and raise your body temperature, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Meat and More
Whether it be prime rib or chick peas, high-protein foods produce glucagon, which puts your brain on full alert.
No surprise here—caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you bright-eyed all night. So save that cup of coffee, diet soda, or chocolate bar for the daylight hours.
Anything with refined sugar—doughnuts, candy— fuels the adrenal glands, which will keep you feeling "high" all night.
Do legendary sleep-inducers really work?
Remedy: Counting sheep
Theory: It’s the insomniac’s cliché—so it must work for somebody!
Pros: The sheer monotony of this tedious numerical task can literally bore you into slumber.
Cons: It has panic potential. Realizing that you’re at sheep number 450 and still not asleep could cause added anxiety.
Remedy: Sleeping pills
Theory: That’s what they’re made for.
Pros: Prescriptive tablets (like Ambien) will provide up to seven hours of solid slumber. Over-the-counter (OTC) pills are effective, too.
Cons: Prescriptive drugs can be addictive, which is why most doctors will only prescribe short-term doses; many OTC pills will leave you feeling groggy well into the day.
Remedy: Warm milk
Theory: Grandma’s home remedy sounds as comforting as a big hug.
Pros: Like turkey, milk contains tryptophan, a chemical that has been shown to induce mild drowsiness.
Cons: You have to get up and warm the milk. Also, your body quickly gets used to it, so the effective-ness is lost after the first couple of times.
Theory: Alcohol seems to put people out (after the initial high wears off).
Pros: Whether taken on the rocks or straight up with a twist, a shot—or two—of this potent potable is sure to help you fall asleep faster.
Cons: Although alcohol is a depressant and has sedative effects, it will ultimately disrupt the natural sleep/wake cycle and leave you feeling unrested.
Remedy: Long bath
Theory: Soaking in a bubble bath relaxes a tense mind and body.
Pros: Raising your body temperature in a tub, then having it drop as you get into bed intensifies a cooling-off process that occurs naturally when you fall asleep.
Cons: It’s labor-intensive. When you’re tired, cranky, and sleep-deprived, do you really want to spend time waiting for a tub to fill?
Theory: A big book by your bed at least looks like it would put you to sleep.
Pros: The perusal of poetry, prose, or paragraphs from your favorite bedtime tome can lull you into a relaxed state.
Cons: Reading is inherently a mentally active exercise—your brain is working, so it can’t shut off.