The holidays are among us once again. This time of year is packed full of shopping, parties, and other festive activities. With so much going on we often forget one important thing, sleep.
Losing too much sleep can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health, which can make the holidays more stressful than they need to be. Follow these 10 tips to help make sure your holiday season remains restful, merry, and bright.
Don’t put things off until the last minute. Stress is one of the main causes of sleep loss during the holidays. There is so much to do and what seems like very little time to do it in. Plan ahead and give yourself some extra time to get things done. If you haven’t started decorating or buying gifts already, start now. Make a list of all that you have to do and mark each item off as you complete it. Maybe start with some easier tasks to help get you going. Seeing some progress will help keep you motivated through the rest.
Try and keep to your regular sleep schedule. All of the parties and late night present wrapping will quickly take its toll on your ability to sleep this holiday season. When you throw your internal clock off on a regular basis you will find yourself groggy during the day and your body won’t be able to figure out when it is supposed to be sleeping. Which would severely impact your ability to get the sleep you need at night. The lack of quality rest could also leave you more vulnerable to winter illnesses.
It is probably impossible to stick to your exact sleep schedule this time of year, but you should do the best that you can. Staying up a half hour to an hour later than normal here and there shouldn’t be a big deal. However, when you start staying up two to three or four hours can cause problems. If you do find that you have stayed up too long, wake up at your usual time the next morning then go to bed a tad early the next night to help make up the deficit. Or, take a midday nap, as long as it is not too long or too late in the afternoon, and then go to bed at your regular bedtime.
Avoid performing tasks late at night. You probably scoffed at the idea, and we admit that over the holidays this is easier said than done, but it is important. Even during the holiday season, it is best to use the last hour or two of your day for winding down and preparing your mind and body to sleep. But, how, during such a hectic time of year, can this possibly be done?
The answer is simply time management. As we suggested above, make a list of the things you need to have done, work your way through it and don’t put the tasks off until the last minute. When you find yourself running around trying to get everything done then throwing yourself into your bed after your usual bedtime, you will likely find that your brain has difficulty shutting itself down right away leaving you tossing and turning.
If you find that you simply must stay up late, allow yourself at least 15 minutes to unwind before you climb into bed for the night. Listen to some soft, relaxing music, read a calming book, or write in your journal for a bit to help get your mind off of what you had been doing. This will help you to fall asleep more quickly and have a better night’s sleep than you would have if you simply threw yourself into bed without getting your worries out of your mind.
Ask for help. A holiday sleep survey found that one in five Americans lay awake at night this time of year because of stress. It all comes down to the fact that there is just too much to do over the holidays and not enough time to do it in. Try and take some weight off your shoulders by asking friends and family to share some of the burden. You don’t have to do it all alone. Pull out your above-mentioned list and start handing out tasks. Remember, this is not the time to be overly picky either, if your child helps wrap presents for family, don’t stress when it isn’t wrapped to department store standards. It’s only going to be ripped off and discarded anyway!
Another option to help reduce stress over the holidays, one that you will probably have to implement in the future as they are too close now, is to put together a managed gift exchange. Put the names of extended family members into a hat and have each person pull a name out of the hat and set a dollar amount you will all spend. This will keep the holiday costs and the number of gifts you have to buy, down which will help limit holiday stress.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are spreading the chores around so that you don’t have to worry about quite so much.
Learn to say no. This tip again circles back to stress. Trying to sleep when you are stressed is almost impossible, and agreeing to do a bunch of activities and chores that you don’t really have time for will lead to one or more sleepless nights.
It can be hard to say no, especially in the spirit of the holidays, but sometimes it is necessary to do so for our health and well-being. There is a great article from the Mayo Clinic that reminds us that sometimes saying no is not selfish. When you say no, keep to the point. (Say “no” or “I can’t” instead of “I’m not sure”.) Be respectful, yet firm. When you turn down some responsibilities, it will give you the opportunity to enjoy the things you do say yes to, leading to a less stressed, more relaxed holiday season.
Exercise. You get so busy this time of year that it may be tempting to skip the gym or your regular workouts. This is not the best idea, especially if you are the type of person that gets stressed out and can’t sleep at night. Exercise has been proven to help people sleep better. A study performed by the researchers at Northwestern University showed that cardiovascular exercise, in particular, can help improve sleep, mood, and vitality for people who suffer from insomnia.
If you have run out of time to exercise during the day, try a relaxing yoga exercise in the evening to help you sleep at night.
Don’t eat too much. When you go to bed with a stomach full of ham, turkey, rolls, potatoes, sweets and a variety of other things you are at risk not only for indigestion, but trouble sleeping as well. Food is everywhere during the holidays, from ample feasts to parties with an array of finger foods and snacks to devour. It is okay to partake in the bountiful feasts, but avoid going to bed stuffed full. Your organs slow down while you sleep, allowing your body time to rest. If your stomach is busy trying to digest all the food you ate, it is going to result in a restless night. Eat in moderation and stop eating at least two to three hours before you go to bed.
Limit your alcohol intake. Over the holidays, alcohol is often served at the festivities you will be attending. As with food, you should limit your alcohol intake and stop drinking within two to three hours of sleep. Because, while alcohol may help you to fall asleep faster, it does not help you stay asleep. Once it metabolizes you may wake in the middle of the night with the urge to use the bathroom and then have trouble getting back to sleep.
Keep it cool. The typical response to the dropping temperatures in the winter is to turn the heat up in the house. Doing so during the day to remain comfortable is all well and good, but at bedtime, it is best to keep the heat down. Research has proven that the best sleeping environment is between 60 and 68 degrees and that temperatures above 75 degrees or below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep.
Take a deep breath. Holiday stress has been the focus of this article and how it disrupts sleep. Thankfully, there are several relaxation techniques that you can use to help you get a better night’s rest. One of the best things you can do is practice a regular bedtime routine. Keep the lights dim and electronics off in the hour leading to bedtime. Read a book or take a warm bath.
Once you are tucked in for the night, a deep breathing exercise can help you to relax further. Close your eyes and take a series of deliberate, deep breaths. Each breath a little slower and deeper than the last. Practice whatever technique you can to get your mind off the stress of the day to enable you to fall asleep quickly and easily.
The holidays can be stressful, but they can also be magical if you allow them to be. Make sure you give yourself time to sit back and enjoy them.
Happy Holidays from the team at the Valley Sleep Center!