There is this idealistic view of the holidays that has something to do with sugarplums dancing in someone’s head but the truth is that most of us won’t get enough sleep over the coming weeks to have a sugar plum dream.  Most of us are already stretched to the limit between working, raising children, and taking care of households and family members.  We are also, as a society, already suffering from some pretty significant sleep deprivation.  And now it’s time for the holidays which means more things to do, more places to be, and more people to take care of.  It’s no wonder that getting enough sleep this time of year can be such a challenge.

There are several things during the holiday season that impact our sleep.  In many cases, we simply don’t have enough time.  We stay up to finish our shopping, wrap gifts, bake cookies, and clean houses so that everything is ready when company begins to arrive.  But holiday stress also plays a big role in keeping us from getting the sleep we need to see us through the season.

When it comes to sleep and holiday stress however, we are faced with a double edged sword.  Too much stress can keep us from getting the sleep we need but when we don’t get enough sleep, it can actually cause more stress.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation causes the same physical changes in the body as stress does.  This means that when you are stressed and can’t sleep, not being able to sleep compounds your stress level and may actually make it harder to get the sleep you need.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, not getting enough sleep can also increase hormone levels that raise your risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.  You may do a great job watching what you eat, skipping snacks, and cutting out cookies and cake for the whole holiday season and still negatively impact your overall health by failing to get the sleep you need.

If you find yourself tossing and turning and longing for some sugar plum dreams this holiday season, here are some things you can do to get to sleep, stay asleep, and decrease your stress.


1.     Unplug

Most of us spend time in the hours before bed in front of a screen of some kind which may be keeping us up long after we have turned out the lights.  The problem is that our TV and computer screens emit light that inhibits the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps control our sleep/wake cycle.


2.     Take Notes

Another thing that keeps many of us up at night this time of year is the never-ending list of things we still need to do.  If you can’t find your way to dreamland because your to do list keeps dancing in your head, take a few minutes and write down anything that is keeping you from falling asleep.  Putting these thoughts on paper can get them out of your head and help you get to sleep.


3.     Stay on Schedule

Stick to your regular sleep schedule as much as possible over the whole holiday season.  Getting up and going to sleep at the same time everyday helps keep your body on track and reinforces a regular sleep routine.


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