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Are You Getting Enough Sleep This Holiday Season?

December 06, 2013

Proper Rest Can Help You Manage Stress and Enjoy the Festivities

With all the decking of the halls and roasting of the chestnuts, are you getting enough sleep this holiday season? The holidays can be filled with joyful times, but they can also interfere with normal sleep patterns. Getting a good night’s sleep can be even more difficult to achieve when some of the stress that comes with the holidays is added to the equation.

“There is a lot going on during the holidays, including a lot of nervous anticipation,” said Dr. Nitun Verma, medical director for the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders and a member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. “Stress can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing. Think 7-year-old on the night before Christmas - sheer anticipation can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.”

Holiday travel can also interfere with a good night’s sleep. “Crossing time zones, schedule changes and different bedtime routines and sleeping arrangements can all interrupt sleep patterns,” he added. “And while travel can be fun, it can also be stressful.”

With buying presents, attending parties, and meeting other obligations, there is a lot to get done during the holidays. Dr. Verma explained that stress can cause anxiety and racing thoughts, making it hard to fall asleep and get a restful night’s sleep.

“Sometimes it’s important to manage expectations during the holidays,” Dr. Verma said. “Being realistic about what you can accomplish and how many commitments you can make can help reduce stress and anxiety. Focus on what is truly important to you.”

While stress can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, getting proper rest can improve your ability to manage stress. “If you want to get the most out of the holidays, it’s important to get enough sleep,” he added.

Dr. Verma offered the following tips for getting a good night’s rest.

  • Follow the same sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This can be more difficult during the holidays with late-night events and disrupted routines, but do the best you can.
  • Exercise early in the day. Exercising 30 minutes on most days of the week can not only improve your sleep, but it can also help manage your weight, with all the added holiday eating, and reduce your stress. However, don’t exercise too late in the day – complete your workout no later than two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant, so consuming some in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol. People tend to consume more alcohol around the holidays. Avoid drinking too much, particularly just before bed. Alcohol in small doses may help you relax, but too much interferes with deep sleep.
  • Avoid late-night meals. With parties and late-night events, the temptation to continue eating into the night is great; however, those late meals can cause indigestion that interrupts sleep.
  • Don’t nap after 3 p.m. You may want to get a quick nap before going out for the evening, but avoid taking one after 3 p.m. Late-afternoon naps can make it difficult to get to sleep when you turn in for the night.
  • Relax before bed. With your busy holiday schedule, you may be tempted to go, go, go, right up until bedtime. But you need to leave time to unwind. Consider doing a relaxing activity like reading a book or listening to music before you go to sleep.
  • Make sure you have a good sleeping environment. This may be more difficult if you are traveling over the holidays, but no matter where you stay, try to get rid of anything that will distract you from sleep. This could be unwanted noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or electronic devices.
  • Have the right light exposure. With the shorter days, it’s dark in the morning. Turn on bright lights as soon as you wake up. It will help you feel more alert throughout the entire day.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake for too long. If you are still awake after 20 minutes or so, or if you are starting to feel anxious about not being able to sleep, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety will make it too hard to fall asleep.
  • Consult your doctor if you continue having difficulty sleeping. Sleep disruptions during the holiday season are not uncommon. If you continue to have trouble getting a good night’s sleep even after the holidays are over, you may want to talk to your doctor.

The Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders can help those who have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. The clinic treats all types of sleep disorders, including snoring, apnea, sleepiness, and restless legs syndrome. To learn more about the Center, visit www.washingtonsleep.com. For information about programs and services at Washington Hospital that can help you stay healthy, visit www.whhs.com.

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