As a bride-to-be, the number one thing you need is your beauty sleep, but the closer the wedding is, the harder it gets to fall and stay asleep at night. Sound familiar? If so, you're likely suffering from a case of pre-wedding insomnia.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder characterized by the prolonged inability to fall or stay asleep.
While the causes of insomnia can run the gamut from hormones to crazy work schedules, Dr. Shelby Harris notes that even positive stress—like your upcoming nuptials—can be a stimulus. But how do you know when a few restless nights become a sleep problem? If the ubiquitous dark under-eye circles, frequent irritability, low energy, and memory gaps don't sound the alarm, Harris suggests a 30-minute cutoff for falling or staying asleep. "Acute insomnia lasts for a short time, from several nights up to three months," adds Dr. Shalini Paruthi, MD.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Shelby Harris, PSYD, DBSM, is a board-certified psychologist in Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM). She is the author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia.
- Dr. Shalini Paruthi, MD, is an AASM member and medical co-director of the St. Luke's Sleep Medicine and Research Center.
Fortunately, this type of insomnia should resolve once the big day is over, but because you can't exactly afford to wait, here's how to achieve some relief in the meantime.
Causes of Pre-Wedding Insomnia
Pre-wedding insomnia isn't too different from other types of insomnia. "The definition is the same," points out Harris. "Trouble with sleep at some point. Maybe it is more of a here-and-there insomnia, but it is definitely an issue for the person." In order for it to be a problem, the lack of sleep time should also be contributing to negative waking effects like frustration, confusion, or inability to complete usual tasks. The issue can affect anyone, though Harris notes that those with busy brains, anxiety, or depression could be at higher risk. If you're feeling like sleeplessness has become a constant bedtime companion, you're in good company as numbers have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. "There’s so much insomnia around with the stress from the pandemic, and then factor in uncertainty with weddings and planning, it is worse," says Harris.
Other common causes include:
- Medical conditions
- Job schedules
At-Home Insomnia Treatments
Modify Your Bedtime Routine
Basic sleep hygiene can be your worst enemy or your saving grace. "Consistent bed and wake times are key," says Harris. "Don’t compensate for a bad night of sleep." Everyone needs different amounts of sleep to fully function, so using a sleep tracker or app can help you figure out the optimal amount needed to feel your best.
Minimize Screen Time
Checking social media and binge-watching Netflix is probably the worst possible way to wind down before bed. "The blue light from phones, tablets, and laptops, as well as TVs, can hinder the melatonin that is being secreted and telling your brain to get sleepy," warns Paruthi. Harris agrees, advising you avoid screens at least one hour before bed and resisting the temptation to scroll if you can't fall asleep.
Cut Back on Caffeine
As much as you crave your cup of Joe, Harris recommends limiting caffeine eight hours prior to hitting the hay since it can add to sleep fragmentation. "Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can stay in our system for hours," explains Paruthi. That means certain types of teas, too.
Harris also advises limiting alcohol consumption and heavy foods three hours before bed.
Try Relaxation Techniques
Most experts agree that the simplest key to falling asleep, or back to sleep, is to learn relaxation techniques. "Wind down 30 to 60 minutes before bed and consider doing a brain dump or worry journal as well as writing out an actionable to-do list," advises Harris, who is also a big proponent of a daily daytime meditation practice. This helps get things out of your brain so you can stop rehearsing the itinerary over and over. Mindfulness and breathing exercises can also be helpful in falling back asleep if you're waking too early.
Set the Mood in Your Room
For the perfect sleep environment Harris advises going for "a cool, pretty cave." So quiet, dark, and comfortable is just what the doctor orders for that elusive beauty rest. The ideal temperature for proper sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Black-out curtains have also been proven to help maintain a natural circadian rhythm while weighted blankets, aromatherapy, noise machines, and even ASMR can help get you to dreamland.
Get a Workout In
Daily exercise has long been touted for its positive impact on sleep quality. Anything that gets you moving and feeling good should do the trick, though some routines—like yoga—can work double duty as a stress-buster. However, you should refrain from working out at night as the resulting buzz makes it difficult to wind down.
Use a Natural Sleep Aid
Natural sleep aids include supplements like melatonin and valerian root and cozy, herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. It's always best to consult with a physician before experimenting with sleep aids to ensure proper use (and diagnosis). "I don’t recommend sleep aids," says Harris. "The evidence behind them isn’t great and they can be misused often."
Take a Bath
A good bath ritual is the holy grail of any evening wind down. Create a peaceful environment of relaxing music and candlelight and throw in some bath salts to soothe stressed-out muscles. Up the ante by incorporating a relaxation technique like meditation or breath work to make your time in the tub even more impactful.
Get Out of Bed If You’re Tossing and Turning
The next time you find yourself tossing and turning, for more than 20 minutes to be exact, get out of bed and go to another room. "Try reading or other quiet activities (nothing with a screen!) until you feel sleepy," advises Paruthi. She also suggests not looking at the clock, as this will only make you stressed out about how many hours of potential sleep are left.
When to See a Professional
Consider seeing a professional if proper sleep hygiene isn't enough. Medication doesn't need to be the next course of action. "Cognitive behavior therapy is the first-line, gold-standard treatment for insomnia," explains Harris. "It's short-term and comes in the form of books, apps, or seeing someone in person or online to have it tailored to you specifically." Licensed providers can be found on the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine’s database.
How long before sleep is considered insomnia?
Dr. Shelby Harris defines insomnia as trouble falling or staying asleep at least three times a week for a minimum of an entire month. The lack of sleep should also be frustrating or disruptive to your life in some way.
How do I calm down before my wedding?
Tune in to figure out what's really causing the stress. If wedding planning has you frazzled, schedule some time off or ask for help completing tasks. Relaxation techniques and exercise can also be effective as can talking through the worries, whether with friends and support groups or a trained professional.
Do you sleep apart the night before your wedding?
Sleeping separately from your partner the night before the wedding is a cultural tradition rooted in the superstition of ensuring a happy marriage and the need to prove a bride's purity. For modern couples, this has largely become a matter of personal preference. If sleeping with your spouse-to-be calms pre-wedding nerves and soothes anxiety, go for it!