It doesn’t matter whether you’re getting ready for your wedding, the delivery of your doctoral dissertation or to run your first marathon, there’s a good chance that the closer you get to the big day, the tougher it’s going to be for you to get to sleep. It’s perfectly normal for pre-event jitters to keep you up at night, and there’s no doubt that if you can’t sleep you’re worried that it will affect the way you look, think, or perform. The good news is that even if you don’t get the best night’s sleep right before your big day, you will still do just fine and look great. As long as you have the chance to be horizontal for a period of hours, you’ve given your body the rest that it needs – one night is not going to mean you can’t go the distance or look great.
Still, if you have the time to prepare, there are several strategies that you can put into place in order to help you avoid staring at the ceiling.
The week before the event:
Plan ahead and eliminate any commitments that you normally have during the week so that you can grab extra sleep instead. Whether you take naps during that time or just get yourself into bed a little earlier than normal, doing so gives you the opportunity to bank a little bit more rest in case you truly can’t sleep the night before.
Make sure that your sleep environment is highly tuned to your needs. Keep the room cool, quiet and dark, and turn off all electronic devices. Resisting the temptation to stay up reading your friends’ good wishes on Facebook or email will do you a world of good.
The day before the event:
Figure out all the details of your day and prepare for it. If you’re a runner, lay out your marathon outfit and all of your snacks and hydration so that you’re not doing it before you go to bed. No matter what your event is the more preparation you can do early the day before, the more peacefully you’ll be able to let yourself go to sleep tonight.
Keep a notepad next to your bed so that when you lay down and start freaking out with all of the things that you want to make sure that you remember to do tomorrow, you can just lean over, jot them down, and know that they are taken care of and that you won’t forget them. You’ll feel even better if you start doing this several days before the race so that you’re confident that you’re not leaving anything off the list.
Before you lay down to go to sleep, take a few minutes to sit down in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing. The goal is to spend five minutes breathing in and out deeply through your nose and into your belly. This will lower your heart rate and allow you to feel more relaxed. The exercise is known as focused breathing, and it can work wonders at helping you fall to sleep quickly because it eliminates the random thoughts that race in and out of your mind. Keep this exercise in mind in case you find yourself feeling panicky in the midst of your event.
After you’ve done your focused breathing, take a couple more minutes and visualize what your morning is going to look like. Picture waking up and everything that you want to do in order to get yourself ready, but when you’re imagining it make sure that you’re visualizing everything going perfectly. If you’re preparing for your wedding, then picture everything going exactly as you hoped and see yourself hand in hand with your partner at your celebration. If you are preparing to give a big speech, imagine the crowd listening attentively, totally engaged and you being forceful and inspiring and received with applause and compliments. If you’re running a marathon picture yourself going through your prerace rituals, feeling strong, and running powerfully to the finish line. The more you picture the details, the more that you will eliminate the jitters that come with the “what ifs.”
Remind yourself that there are certain things that are completely out of your control and let go of worry. Keep in mind that the stress that you are feeling is a function of doing something that is unfamiliar and challenging and that will represent a big achievement once we get to the other side. There’s a reason why we feel nervous before we take on these kinds of tasks – it’s because we are doing something that requires us to be focused and present and to pay full attention. You can’t invest the kind of time that these achievements require and then suddenly shut down the energy in the crucial minute, or expect the adrenaline burst to be manageable. The nerves and excitement are all part of the deal, so enjoy it.
Going though the steps listed above provide no guarantee that you will be able to sleep the night before your event, but they should help you to relax and stay positive. The most important thing for you to keep in mind while you’re facing the anxiety of the hours beforehand is that the few hours of sleep before the event are not what is going to make or break your performance or achievement. The success comes from the hours that you have put in long before the big day, and it is the quality of that work that is going to carry you through, so whether you sleep like a rock or only get a few minutes of shut-eye, all you have to think about is how hard you’ve worked to get to this point and you can feel confident that everything will turn out just fine.