Between holiday shopping, parties and family visits, the holiday season can leave you short on time and sleep. But it’s important to keep your sleep routine so that you can truly enjoy the season.
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A lack of quality sleep increases chances of holiday weight gain and can disrupt your fitness routine,” says sleep expert Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, MS, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic. She warns that the extra alcohol, finger foods and treats along with the added hustle and bustle of shopping can lead to fitful, unsatisfactory sleep. But a few conscious choices can help you maintain your sleep and your health, she says.
Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer offers these seven tips for maintaining your sleep schedule (and your sanity) during the holidays:
- Stick to your normal sleep routine. “It may seem impossible during the busy holiday season, but it’s really not,” says Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day – even on weekends and holidays. Stay consistent to reinforce your sleep-wake cycle and encourage a more relaxing night’s slumber, she explains. If you have an evening holiday party to attend and you plan on staying up late, try to keep your wake up time the same, even if you feel tired the next day.
- Avoid eating within two hours of bedtime. If you’re hungry, Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer suggests having a glass of milk and a light snack like fresh fruit or granola. Milk contains the amino acid L-tryptophan, which research shows helps people go to sleep.
- Make your bedroom your sanctuary. Minimize noise (wear earplugs if you must), close the blinds and eliminate any ambient light. Your kids may be excited about the holidays and find it hard to sleep. Don’t allow them to sleep in your bed with you. This will disrupt a good night’s sleep for all of you.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. As a stimulant, it will keep you awake. “When it comes to caffeine, watch out. It’s present not only in coffee, tea and cola, but also in many of the chocolate-laden treats you might nibble on at a holiday party,” says Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer. Alcohol is a depressant that you may think is helpful because it might help you fall asleep more easily at first. But when your body metabolizes it during the sleep cycle, it often disrupts sleep and wakes you up.
- Keep your mind calm and anxiety-free at bedtime. The holidays can bring stress and anxiety along with joy and excitement. “Thoughts about when you’ll find the time to finish your shopping, or about all the cleaning you have to do before your weekend guests arrive may plague your waking mind. Put these to rest at least an hour before bedtime,” says Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer.
- Get plenty of exercise. Exercising during the day reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body, but avoid anything too strenuous (aside from sex) within three hours of bedtime, she says. Regular exercise can promote a deeper sleep.
- Learn a relaxation technique. If you have trouble winding down before bedtime, learn a relaxation technique like progressive muscle relaxation, suggests Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer. The technique involves tensing and relaxing certain muscle groups one at a time to create awareness of tension and relaxation.
Your health and emotional well-being are your most important personal assets. Maintaining healthy sleep habits, no matter the season, can help you feel refreshed and recharged so you can truly enjoy precious times with the people you care about. Take the time to incorporate these tips into your everyday routine and you’ll notice the difference almost immediately.