Don’t Let the Grinch Steal This Christmas Gift
Give yourself the gift of a good night’s sleep.
The holiday season between November to the New Year is often the busiest time of year for people. There is holiday shopping, planning family events, making time to see friends, and perhaps the additional holiday stress of coordinating flights and other travel plans. Our homes are bustling with the holiday spirit, but all of the excitement can also cause some stress and negatively impact our sleep schedules.
Let’s dive into why sleep is so important, what might be causing your sleep problems, and how to get back on track.
Why Healthy Sleep Habits Are Vital for Your Well-Being
When you think of lifestyle factors that influence your overall mental and physical health, does sleep come to mind? Sleep is an incredibly important aspect of your daily life, and it directly impacts how your body and mind are able to function.
Science shows that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night in order to maintain optimal health and well-being. When this mark is missed on a regular basis, sleep deprivation begins to take a toll on your body and mind. You might become forgetful, experience odd mood changes, get sick more often, and generally feel unwell or “off.” Adults with sleep deprivation are also at a higher risk of developing medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and even stroke.
Quality, restful sleep is truly the key to unlocking better physical and mental health.
Factors That Cause Sleep Problems During the Holidays
There are many causes behind chronic sleep issues, but if it seems like your sleep problems are holiday-specific, it may be because of one of these factors.
General Stress Build-Up
The holidays are a stressful time, even though it’s also a time many of us deeply enjoy. Even though you may be having a wonderful time with loved ones, it’s still completely normal to feel more stress and restlessness during this time of the year.
Remember, holiday stress doesn’t just occur because of negative stimuli, it can also happen when you’re quite happy. For example, think back to when you were a child at Christmas and you felt so overwhelmed with excitement and positivity that you had a hard time going to bed.
Decreased Daylight Hours
We all know it gets darker much earlier during the winter, but we might not know that decreased daylight hours can also impact our sleep. These earlier nights throw off our circadian rhythm and can, in a sense, confuse our bodies. You might have noticed that you feel sleepy earlier in the day than usual, but when it comes time to go to bed, it’s as if you feel awake again.
If you experience sleep problems only during winter, this is often the culprit.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Have you ever heard of S.A.D. or seasonal affective disorder? This condition is linked to decreased daylight hours and can cause a number of mental health issues. If you’re having trouble sleeping and you’re also feeling much more tired, anxious, sad, or withdrawn than usual, it might be because you’re experiencing seasonal affective disorder.
It’s important to let your doctor know if you believe you have S.A.D. so you can work together to find a solution.
How to Create a Healthy Sleep Schedule During the Holidays
Even if your sleep schedule is a mess right now, don’t worry! You can get back to restful nights and get any underlying holiday stress under control with these seven tips.
1. Go back to the basics with a scheduled bedtime.
Prioritize your bedtime routine so you always have time to get enough sleep every night. Aim for about 8 hours of sleep whenever you can. Do the quick math and set an alarm for when you should begin to get ready for bed and perhaps a second alarm for when it’s time for lights out.
2. Create a sleepy oasis in your bedroom.
Your bedroom should encourage sleep as much as possible. Make sure your room is dark, especially if your home’s exterior is brightly lit with Christmas lights. You may want to put up some blackout curtains to help. Your room should also be quiet except for a fan or white noise machine if you need some nondescript sound to sleep.
3. Practice these holiday stress-relieving techniques, especially in the evening.
Find what helps you relieve stress and practice these things every evening. Maybe make time to read a book or take a warm bath with Epsom salts. You can also do a relaxing exercise routine, such as yoga. Journaling and guided meditation are two other ideas that can be very helpful. Everyone is different, so play around with some different techniques to find a few that work for you.
4. Warm up with herbal tea designed for relaxation.
Hot cocoa is lovely but the additional sugar can make it tough to fall asleep. Swap the sugary or caffeinated beverages for a warm cup of tea instead. Look for herbal blends without caffeine. To help you feel relaxed and sleepy, look for teas that have chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and valerian root.
5. Consider supplementing with melatonin for those tougher nights.
Though not recommended for long-term use, melatonin is a safe choice for those tough nights when sleep just doesn’t seem to be coming your way. We always recommend asking your doctor before taking any new supplement to ensure it’s the right choice for your body and health.
6. Try out light therapy to combat seasonal affective disorder.
Light therapy is fantastic for combating seasonal affective disorder symptoms that could be the underlying cause of your sleep problems. You can read more about the success of light therapy right here.
7. See your dentist for untreated sleep apnea or TMJ symptoms.
Do you snore, wake up feeling tired despite getting in the hours, or wake up with a headache and sore jaw? Chances are you have some undiagnosed health issues causing these issues as well as your sleep problems. Snoring is a classic symptom of sleep apnea while morning headaches and jaw soreness are often associated with TMJ. Your dentist can help you diagnose both of these problems!
Remember, getting quality sleep is important. If you’ve been trying different ways to improve your sleep or reduce your holiday stress but you haven’t found a solution, reach out to your doctor for help.