Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The Zone's Dr. Barry Sears gives tips for much-needed shuteye during stressful wedding planning.

Sleeping woman via Shutterstock

Sleeping woman via Shutterstock

There’s no way around it. Wedding bliss comes with planning stress. When your waking hours to-do list starts creeping into your sleeping hours, this can lead to restless nights and health issues. Not exactly things you want before you’re about to walk down the aisle.

“Weddings usually mean great happiness, but also great amounts of stress,” says Dr. Barry Sears, of New York Times best seller The Zone fame (and his recently launched update The Mediterranean Zone). This former research scientist at BU’s School of Medicine and MIT started the concept of anti-inflammatory nutrition and addresses the issue of sleep as it relates to your overall well-being.

You clearly know what it feels like to be stressed. It’s exhausting. But then why can’t you sleep?

“As stress levels increase, so do the levels of the hormone cortisol. With prolonged stress (even only a few days), the increased cortisol generates insulin resistance that not only makes it difficult to de-stress, but increases hunger, and usually that means increased weight gain (yet another stressor),” he explains. “All of these add up to disturbed sleep patterns, which in turn creates more stress. This leads to a downward cycle of increasing unhappiness and makes the next day less productive.”

So it goes. The circle of wife-to-be.

But there is good news. You can get out of this cycle. Just keep these things in mind before you get a good night’s sleep.

To begin, Dr. Sears says you can eat your way out of this cycle. But before you pick up the spoon and dig into the ice cream, or gasp because you can’t even think of eating at a time like this (after all, you have a dress to fit into), relax.

“This means following an anti-inflammatory diet that uses non-starchy vegetables as your primary carbohydrate source and supplement it with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids,” he says, noting that another factor that can contribute to poor sleeping is excess carbs in the diet, especially late at night—perhaps in the form of a giant bowl of pasta or a box of low-fat crackers.

“And avoid too much nervous stimulation like watching TV or using the Internet,” he adds. So that text to your BFF about the wedding color palette or the one last glimpse at Pinterest should wait until tomorrow. The light of the screen sends signals to the brain that you’re still awake, which doesn’t bode well for improved sleep. Dr. Sears suggests moving away from the screen—laptop, iPhone, iPad, or TV—for at least an hour before bed.

In order to get a better night’s sleep, he also recommends consistent exercise (best in the morning) and a moderate lifestyle that leaves time for reflection prior to going to sleep.

The majority of the time, it’s your anxious thoughts that keep you up at night—all those nitty-gritty wedding details—and so it’s best to learn to calm your mind before you sleep. “Some quiet time (especially meditation) is useful to calm down the nervous system,” he says.

Another way to relax your mind is to plan your day the night before. When you get home from your day, make a list of what you want to accomplish the next day. This way, you don’t have to make lists in your head when lying in bed at night.

Sleep well.

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