Over the holidays we tend to bring a lot of additional activities and stress into our already hectic lives. With all the holiday parties, shopping, light viewing, wrapping, travel and so on, sleep is often low on the list of priorities. Unfortunately, neglecting your body’s need for quality rest can negatively impact your ability to make it through the season feeling merry and bright.
Here are five ways the holidays disrupt your sleep, and what you can do about it:
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that stress is a huge contributor to insomnia and other sleep problems. Stress often leads to racing thoughts and tension, both of which can make it difficult to not only fall asleep but also to stay asleep throughout the night.
What can you do? If you are experiencing higher levels of stress; meditation, warm baths, a calming caffeine-free tea (like chamomile) and breathing exercises before bed are great ways to unwind and release tension. Regular exercise during the day has also been proven to lower stress levels. If you must exercise closer to bed, make sure it is nothing overly stimulating as you may not be able to sleep after. Some light stretches or relaxing yoga poses would be fine.
‘Tis the season to party, and with those parties come foods that aren’t the greatest for our sleep health. This time of year, alcohol, caffeine, and junk food consumption go way up, and each of these things harm sleep quality.
What can you do? Enjoying holiday drinks and treats can be a special part of the season but try not to over-do it. Drinking too heavily is known to disrupt your sleep quality (amongst other things) so it is best to avoid drinking too much, especially if it is something you don’t do regularly. The effects of caffeine can last for nearly six hours after last consumed, so it is best avoided after two or three in the afternoon. If you notice you aren’t sleeping well after you eat certain foods, you would do well to either avoid them or eat them earlier in the day and eat less of them.
Overly Full Schedule
The holiday season is short, and we want to experience as much of it as we can every year. So, we squeeze as many parties, family dinners, light viewings, Santa visits, volunteer opportunities and more, into our already tight schedules. This overly full schedule will not only interrupt your regular bedtime routine but can also increase your anxiety levels. Increased anxiety can also make getting quality sleep difficult.
What can you do? Making time for quality sleep is important to your mental and physical health.So,be realistic in your expectations. There is no way you can make it to every engagement that comes up this time of year. You should prioritize, choose events that are the most meaningful to you and be okay with saying ‘no’ to things that will just be too much to handle.
Too Much Light Exposure at Night
This time of year, twinkling lights are everywhere both inside and outside of the home. Light plays a major roll in our sleep/wake cycle and being exposed to too much of it late in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep. And, a 2018 study has proven that light exposure while sleeping diminishes sleep quality and increases your risk of depressive symptoms.
What can you do? Expose yourself to as little light as possible within two hours of bedtime to signal to your brain that it is time to wind down. That includes your Christmas lights. When you get into bed, make sure all lights are off. If light sneaks in from outside somehow, consider using a sleep mask or hanging black-out curtains to help ensure you have a good night’s sleep.
Many people find themselves traveling for the holidays. Jet lag, long car rides, and sleeping in unfamiliar places can all negatively impact your sleep.
What can you do? If you travel to another time zone, you can very likely become jet lagged. The Mayo Clinic suggests that you get a good night’s sleep before you travel, keep well hydrated on the plane, and adjust your schedule to your destination’s time right when you arrive to help you recover from jet lag quickly.
If you don’t wind up with jet lag during your travels, sleeping in a place besides your bed could be a problem. You should stick to your regular sleep schedule so your body and mind are receptive to sleep. The NSF suggests meditating, journaling, taking warm showers, and using sleep masks and earplugs to help you fall asleep when you are away from your own bed.
While it is true that the holidays can present some problems for your sleep quality, if you plan\ ahead, set needed boundaries, and minimize stress you can enjoy the season in a rested and healthy way.
If you struggle to sleep well regularly, the holidays are likely not to blame. You may be suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder or some other underlying condition. We highly recommend scheduling a sleep consultation with the experts at Family Sleep Diagnostics. You can call us at (972) 714-0011 or schedule an appointment online today.