Young or old, male or female: getting married is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. Whether you’re having a small, intimate ceremony or a huge shebang, all weddings are nerve-wracking. There are so many things to plan, and so many things that could potentially go wrong. It’s no wonder so many people struggle to sleep in the lead up to their wedding.
Functioning on very little sleep is hard enough in our day-to-day lives. If you’ve ever had insomnia, you’ll be well aware of this. But when your sleepless nights occur before the biggest day of your life, it’s even less ideal. You don’t want to be rushing around trying to organize things if you’ve only had two hours’ sleep. Not only that but who wants to look groggy and have skin problems due to no sleep in wedding photos?
In this guide, we’ll go through what causes pre-wedding insomnia, and how much sleep you should get. We’ll then look at some failsafe ways to get a decent night’s sleep before your big day.
What Causes Pre-Wedding Insomnia?
Pre-wedding anxiety and insomnia are extremely common. Though there hasn’t been any scientific research on it, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. If you search the internet for “can’t sleep wedding tomorrow,” you’ll see just how common it is. But why do so many people struggle to sleep before their wedding?
Wedding planning is hugely stressful. There’s so much to plan, organize, and perfect. Every aspect of a wedding has to be arranged down to the finest detail. When things go wrong, and plans fall through, it creates even more stress.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress and sleep are deeply intertwined. People with higher levels of stress tend to sleep for fewer hours each night. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, which keeps you in a state of arousal. As a result, it’s much harder to switch off.
Pre-wedding nerves and anxiety are extremely common. Even if you’re marrying your best friend, it’s common to have worries and doubts. After all, marriage is a big step.
The night before your wedding, you may be feeling anxious about many things. You might worry about everything from the timing of the day, to the decorations, to the speech. You may even experience the infamous “cold feet,” and worry about getting married at all.
With all of these worries buzzing around inside your head, it’s common not to be able to sleep. To drift off, your mind needs to relax and be at peace.
How Much Sleep Do I Need before a Wedding?
On average, adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. This depends on these three factors:
- Age: A study published in Sleep Health found that sleep requirements change with age. A 17-year-old needs 8-10 hours per night, whereas a 65-year-old needs 7-8 hours. Generally speaking, the older you are, the less sleep you’re likely to need.
- Genetics: For genetic reasons, some people can naturally function on less sleep than others. According to a study in Science, the amount of sleep we need may be hereditary. Some families may require more hours of sleep than others.
- Sleep Quality: If your sleep is frequently disturbed, you’ll need more sleep than someone whose sleep quality is excellent. It may take you 9 hours of lying in bed to get 8 hours of good quality rest.
Nobody can tell you the precise amount of sleep that you need as an individual. It all comes down to trial and error. If you find that you wake up groggy and exhausted after 7 hours, you probably need 8.
In the lead up to your wedding, it’s essential to get sufficient sleep. You’ve got a long day ahead of you, so it’s vital that you prepare yourself adequately. Not to mention, you probably want to look refreshed and healthy in your wedding photos.
Don’t be tempted to oversleep, though. Sleeping more than 9 hours per night can cause unwanted side effects. You could end up feeling even more tired or suffering from headaches on your big day.
How to Sleep before Wedding Day
So, you now know the importance of getting enough sleep before your wedding. But how do you make sure that you get enough rest? Here are our tips for sleeping well the week before the ceremony.
Stick to a Strict Sleep Routine
Getting a consistent amount of sleep each night is dependent upon having a good sleep routine. Ideally, you should develop a sleep routine at least a month before your wedding, so that its effects have time to take hold. It’s imperative to stick to the same routine every single day so that your body gets used to it.
- Figure out how much sleep you need. Start keeping track of how many hours of sleep you’re getting each night. Take note of how you feel throughout the next day. Eventually, you’ll discover the amount of sleep that’s right for you.
- Go to sleep, and wake up, at the same time each day. This will help train your body into feeling tired at the correct time. The sooner you start doing this, the easier it will be to get to sleep before your wedding. This includes weekends, too. Don’t be tempted to break routine on your days off.
- Create a bedtime ritual. Do the same things in a specific order in the hours before bed. This will help to train your mind and body into knowing when it’s time to wind down.
Get Daily Exercise
Daily exercise is a powerful tool for combatting insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise per day can improve sleep quality. Regular exercise helps in the following ways:
- It helps you to fall asleep quicker, as you’re naturally more tired from the exercise.
- Once asleep, you’re less likely to wake up, and therefore sleep for longer.
- It increases the amount of time spent in deep sleep, meaning you wake up feeling more rested.
- It reduces your risk of developing sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Exercising outdoors allows you to get natural sunlight, helping to reset your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Ideally, take at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. Try walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. The kind of exercise doesn’t matter, as long as it gets your heart rate up.
As with your sleep routine, exercise should form part of every day. Try to start your exercise routine at least a month before your wedding day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you do it, as long as it’s consistent. This helps your brain understand when it’s the right time to be active. Exercise also helps with your general health and body composition, helping you look better on the day.
Eat and Drink Sensibly
You may not realize it, but what you eat and drink during the day can have a profound influence on sleep. There are various factors that can affect how easily you fall asleep and your quality of sleep during the night. In the week leading up to your wedding, try to stick to the following recommendations:
- Avoid caffeine. If consumed too late in the day, caffeine can make it harder to sleep. To be on the safe side, don’t drink coffee or energy drinks after midday. If you crave a warm drink before bed, choose warm milk instead. Research by the Dutch Association for Sleep-Wake Research has shown that drinking milk before bed can improve the quality and length of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol. Any alcohol in the bloodstream can ruin a night’s sleep. It reduces the amount of deep sleep and REM sleep, meaning you’re less refreshed in the morning. You’re also likely to wake up after only a few hours, and not be able to get back to sleep. Although a glass of wine might calm you down, you should leave it until the wedding breakfast.
- Eat a light meal in the evening. Going to bed on an overfull stomach can make it harder to get a restful night’s sleep. Eating a carb-heavy meal for dinner means your digestive system will have to work hard overnight. This could potentially cause disrupted sleep. Opt for a lighter meal which is low in carbohydrate and high in protein.
Prepare Your Bedroom
It’s important that your sleeping space is perfectly set up for a restful night’s sleep. Make sure that, in the week before your wedding, you pay attention to the following aspects:
- Temperature. A cool bedroom temperature is best for falling and staying asleep. As you fall asleep, your body temperature naturally cools. If the room is too warm, it can make this difficult. Not to mention, you’re likely to be uncomfortable during the night and wake up sweating. Aim for between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Light. If your room is dark, your brain will find it easier to switch off. Try to keep the lights dim as you’re preparing for bed. Use blackout blinds or curtains to keep outside light from entering your room. If necessary, use a sleep mask.
- Sound. Try to avoid noises throughout the night. Close your bedroom windows and door so that outside noise doesn’t get in. Turn your phone onto Do Not Disturb mode so that you aren’t awoken by notifications. If you want, you can use earplugs to block out all sound. Just make sure that you’re still able to hear your alarm.
- Comfort. Invest in a good quality mattress and pillows to provide optimal comfort during the night. Memory foam works well for many people. If you’re not comfortable in bed, you’ll find it harder to sleep.
Calm Your Body
For your brain to start sending out sleepy hormones, your body needs to be relaxed. If your body is under stress, you won’t fall asleep, no matter how tired you are. That’s why you never see anyone sleeping on a rollercoaster.
Before you start getting ready for bed, take a long, warm bath. Soaking your body in warm water will help relax your muscles and ready you for sleep. It’s also psychological – a bath feels like a warm hug and will get you feeling content and sleepy. You can buy a purpose-made bubble bath that is designed to promote sleep. It usually contains lavender or bergamot fragrance which can help relax the body.
A massage can also help. Ask your fiancé(e) to give you a backrub – you can always return the favor. Assuming you aren’t sticking to the tradition of sleeping alone before the wedding, of course. Make use of soothing lotions or oils to de-stress your body even further.
Calm Your Mind
As well as your body, you also need to make sure your mind is relaxed before you can sleep. After all, if your mind is racing, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve had a bubble bath or not.
To prepare your brain for sleep, switch off all screens at least one hour before bed. That means no TV, no laptop, no iPad, and no mobile phone. The blue light from electronic devices can fool the brain into thinking it’s daytime. This makes it harder to fall asleep. If you want to read before bed, be aware that some e-readers have backlights, too. To be on the safe side, stick with a good old-fashioned paperback.
In the hour before bed, try not to undertake any strenuous mental activity. Instead, think soothing thoughts and try to stay calm. This isn’t the time to frantically plan last-minute wedding details. Getting a good night’s sleep is more important.
It may help to create some allocated worry time a couple of hours before bed. During this time, allow yourself to worry and think about everything that’s on your mind. Write all your worries down in a journal, and brainstorm potential solutions. This should leave your mind feeling clearer as you get ready for bed.
Natural Sleep Aids
If you need that little extra boost to fall asleep, try using natural sleep aids. Most are herbal or plant-based. They contain natural compounds to promote sleepiness and each works in a slightly different way. They’re a great alternative to using sleeping pills, as they’re less harsh but still effective. The most popular natural sleep aids include:
- Valerian Root comes from an herb that is native to Asia and Europe. It has a sedative effect on the brain and nervous system. This means after taking it that you’ll feel sleepy and relaxed. You can purchase it in the form of teas, capsules, or drops.
- Chamomile has been used for centuries to help with promoting sleep. You can buy it in ointments, teas, or extracts. Its effects are quite mild but work effectively for many people.
- Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain when it’s time to sleep. It helps regulate the circadian rhythm. Scientists have synthesized melatonin to create natural sleep remedies, which can be quite effective.
- Essential oils such as lavender are thought to help with sleep. It’s unclear why. Some of it may be to do with the mental association that we have with lavender and sleep. But how it works doesn’t matter, as long as it works.
If you get into bed and find that you’re still anxious or finding it hard to sleep, try some relaxation exercises.
Focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath in, hold it for around five seconds, and then release it slowly. Count your breaths to keep your mind from drifting. Before long, you should nod off.
You can also try gentle muscle exercises. While lying down, curl your toes and then release them. Then, bend your foot upwards to tense your calf muscle, and release it. Keep tensing and relaxing every muscle in your body, up to your face. If you haven’t yet fallen asleep, start again at the toes. Focus on imagining every muscle and what it looks like. Repeat until you start to fall asleep.
Guided imagery is also a great technique. Lie still, close your eyes and try to clear your mind of all thought. Then, focus on an imaginary scene in your mind. A beach or forest glade is ideal, though go with whatever makes you most calm. Focus on every aspect of the scene. Draw your attention back to it if you feel your mind wandering.
Despite trying all of the above, you may still find yourself lying awake, unable to sleep. If this happens to you, give it a maximum of 20 minutes. If you don’t feel any sleepier after this point, get out of bed and distract yourself. Lying wide awake in bed isn’t going to solve anything.
Your best bet is to do something which keeps your mind distracted, but is also quite boring. Don’t do anything exciting or stimulating, as it could wake you up even further.
Some good ideas include:
- Reading a book that you’ve read many times before
- Listen to a podcast on a subject that you don’t find interesting
- Listen to calm, slow, instrumental music
- Write down a plan for the day ahead, to stop yourself thinking about it in bed
- Count sheep (yes, it really can work).
While you do all of this, keep the lights dim, and don’t use any device with a screen. Once you feel yourself beginning to get sleepy again, you should get back into bed and try again.
Take a Sleeping Pill
If nothing else has worked, you may be tempted to resort to sleep-inducing medication. Some people have reported taking a sleeping pill at night before the wedding with success. It’s up to you, but it can be a risky gamble.
If you do decide to take a sleeping pill, choose a type that you’ve used before. Some people can have adverse reactions to certain types of sleep medication. The week before your wedding isn’t the right time to try a new medicine.
Sleeping pills work by producing a sedative effect in the brain. They cause strong drowsiness which puts the individual straight to sleep. However, occasionally, this drowsiness and grogginess can continue to the next day. If you get unlucky, you may end up dazed and lethargic throughout your wedding day.
Always make sure to take sleeping pills following the instructions on the packet. Make sure to take them at least eight hours before you need to get up. This is so that there’s time for the effect to wear off. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t take a sleeping pill to get back to sleep.
I Didn’t Sleep Night Before Wedding
If you’ve followed all of our guidelines, you should be getting a decent amount of sleep in the lead up to your big day. However, if you’re reading this guide the day before your wedding – or in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep – it may be too late. Or, you may be far too nervous to even think about sleeping, even after following our advice.
If you find yourself having not slept a wink on the morning of your wedding, don’t panic. Here’s how to get through the day.
- Stay hydrated. Drink a glass of water as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning. This will kick-start your body into preparing for the day. Keep water on hand throughout the day to top yourself up.
- Take a cold shower to shake off the sleepiness. This will get your heart pumping and tell your body it’s time to wake up.
- Eat a good breakfast. Oatmeal followed by eggs on whole-wheat toast is an excellent choice. This will provide you with some much-needed energy to keep you going.
- Drink coffee. Don’t be worried about caffeine on your big day. You likely won’t be going to sleep for another 14 hours or more, so you’ll probably need it.
- Take a nap if you find an opportunity during the day, no matter how small. 10 to 20 minutes is a good length. Any longer and you may fall into a deep sleep and wake up groggy.
You needn’t worry too much, though. Even if you’re running on empty, you’ll be full of adrenaline on your wedding day. It’s not likely that you’ll fall asleep at the altar.