The holiday season is among us, and as a result, people are getting less of their much-needed rest and relaxation. Between holiday shopping, parties and family visits, who has the time? However, this decrease in sleep and relaxation may be a big cause of your holiday stress. It is important to maintain a healthy sleep routine so that you can truly enjoy the season.
There’s no reason to let the hectic schedule of the season rob you of the deep, rejuvenating slumber you not only crave, but need to make it through the holidays and into the new year.
To help you sleep well through the holiday chaos, here are 10 tips:
- Make a list.
We know that this time every year is going to be busy. There is so much we have to do to prepare for the season from cleaning, to gift shopping, to visiting with friends and family, to preparing feasts, and so much more. Even knowing how much we have to do we still tend to put things off until the very last minute. A bad habit that only adds to our stress. To avoid the stress and sleep deprivation that comes from the pile of things you have to do, try and get a jump start on your holiday preparations. Make a list of all the things that you need to have done before the holidays begin and start scheduling them in on open times in your schedule. Start with the things that are most time consuming, so you get them out of the way. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, get some help.
- Don’t over-do it.
Don’t put all the holiday chores on yourself. Make holiday tasks a family affair. Have the kids or your spouse help with the cleaning or packing for the trips. Make dinners a pot luck on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make shopping fun by going with friends or another family member. Turn as much of your holiday stress into family bonding opportunities as you can by getting everyone to help out.
- Maintain your regular sleep schedule.
It may seem like it’s worth staying up late to catch up on errands or chat with family and friends, but doing so can throw off your sleep schedule. Hard as it may seem, you need to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to limit staying up past your bedtime to only an hour. Remember, sleep deprivation leads to mood and behavior changes. Avoid turning into a Grinch around your loved ones and get quality sleep. For tips on maintaining a sleep schedule while traveling for the holidays, click here.
Regular exercise is one of the greatest promoters of quality sleep. It may be tempting to skip out on your fitness routines over the holiday season to make time for other things, but don’t. Regular exercise is good for your body and mind, and can help to reduce your holiday stress. If you travel, or have visitors, take them with you. The gym can be a great opportunity to bond. Not into gym’s? Go for a walk or on a short hike.
- Watch the snacking.
This is hard to do, especially over the holidays. Certain foods can keep you from sleeping soundly throughout the night. For example, food and drinks that are high in caffeine and sugar can keep you awake at night. Foods that are high in processed carbs can make you feel tired during the day. Keep night snacking to a minimum. Eating before sleep will make your body work harder to break down the food while you sleep. This takes away from your body repairing and refreshing itself while you sleep, leaving you feeling more sluggish the next day. Eating before bed could also cause acid reflux, which makes falling asleep or staying asleep very difficult. For more information on foods that make sleeping more difficult click here. A holiday snack that would be safe in the evening hours are sweet potatoes. They contain complex carbs (great for promoting sleep) and potassium which is muscle relaxant.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
Though alcohol can make you drowsy, it diminishes your sleep quality. Alcohol decreases the amount of REM sleep a person gets, which is when dreaming occurs, memories are stored, and learning happens. If you suffer from the sleep disorder, sleep apnea, alcohol can exaggerate your symptoms. When you drink alcohol, it relaxes your muscles, including those in your throat, allowing them to further obstruct your airway. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, alcohol can make you snore louder and disrupt your partner’s sleep. We aren’t saying don’t drink at all, just drink in moderation and avoid drinking two to three hours before bed. Click here for more detailed information on how alcohol affects your sleep.
- Watch your caffeine intake.
Many of us find that we rely on caffeine to keep us going throughout the holiday season. According to SleepEducation.org, a study found that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by 1 hour. These effects also can be stronger in older adults. It takes their bodies a longer time to process caffeine. So, you can imagine, consuming caffeine in the evening hours can put a damper on your quality of sleep. Avoid caffeine after lunch time if possible to get a good night’s rest.
- Take some time to wind down.
A relaxing bedtime routine is one of the best ways to promote a restful night’s sleep. Turn your typical routine into something the whole family can enjoy during the holiday season. Play a low energy game, read holiday books aloud to each other, write letters to Santa, listen to Christmas carols. Any activity you enjoy as a family is fine, as long as it isn’t overly stimulating. You should, however, avoid television and video games.
- Turn off the Christmas lights and electronics before bedtime.
Computers, televisions, cell phones, and other electronic devices emit a light that is similar to the light of day. These devices trick our brains into believing it is still daylight, which could throw off our circadian rhythm and sleep cycle. The glow from holiday lights through our windows can have the same effect, so make sure they are shut off when you are ready for some shut eye. The devices are also over stimulating, making us want to stay up and consume more, so we miss out on our much-needed sleep. Turn off all electronics and dim the lights at least one hour before bed to send a signal to your brain and body that it is time to wind down.
- Spend some time outdoors.
Exposing yourself to as much day light as you can is beneficial to your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that reacts to the natural cycles of day and night, and sends signals to your body that it’s time for bed. Daylight decreases your body’s production of melatonin and the decrease in light at night increases its production, helping you fall asleep. Because the days are shorter in the winter, it is more important to get out and take in as much daylight as possible.
If you’re still struggling with sleep and feeling rested even after maintaining good sleep practices, there’s a chance you are suffering from a sleep disorder. If you are struggling with sleep, call one of our five Valley Sleep Center locations today to schedule your sleep study.