In Part I, I talked a little bit about holiday gifts you could give to help others get a better night's sleep. But in your hurry to scratch those names off your list, don't forget about the person that should at the top of your list (but usually isn't) - YOU. Remember to take care of yourself while you are taking care of all the other, usually extra, demands that come with the holiday time of year. Not surprisingly, a recent survey from SleepBetter.org found that many of us do not sleep particularly well during the holiday season. There are many expected and a few unexpected reasons for our lack of rest:
• Financial concerns appear to be weighing heavily on everyone's mind this year (44% of those surveyed).
o This is affecting gift buying and travel to see family.
• One in Six Americans (17%) are expecting to lose sleep due to holiday-induced stress.
• The night before a big gift giving event, seems to be the worst night for sleep for both children and adults.
o Two out of every three (66%) mothers and fathers think that they will get 6 or fewer hours of sleep the night before gift giving.
So here is my gift to you - my Sleep Hygiene for the HolidaysTM tips.
1) Watch out for the Egg Nog Nightcap. If you are drinking alcohol/egg nog (at a holiday party) remember that while it may make you fall asleep quickly, it prevents you from reaching deep sleep.
Drink one glass of water for every glass of holiday cheer. Not only will it slow down your drinking but it will prevent you from getting dehydrated which is why you get a hang over!
2) Wean the Holiday Bean. While many of my patients tell me " I can drink an espresso and go to bed" they may be correct but the sleep they are getting is more jittery then they are!
Try Caffeine Fading. While there are some great holiday coffees to try, drink higher caffeinated beverages in the morning and move to lower ones in the mid afternoon. Try to move to water by 2-3 p.m.
3) The Double Whammy. Most people stay out late and they drink too much-no wonder they feel horrible in the a.m.
Watch Your Bed Time. If you are going out with friends and to a holiday party (see tip #1) try to get to bed on time!
4) Cardio not Cappuccino. Research shows that those who have a regular exercise program get deeper sleep.
Exercise (specifically 20-30 minutes of aerobic) is one of the single best ways to improve the quality of your sleep.
5) Rudolph's Bright Nose. Light is the single biggest factor telling your body that it is morning, this can affect your sleep all night long.
Check those lights. In the evenings use a book light for reading, change bulb wattage to 45 at the bedside table, and use a night light in the bathroom to get you there and back to sleep. Remember to turn off your tree lights at night!
6) Staying up late for those holiday specials? Many of my patients sheepishly tell me that they sleep with the TV on, watching all the great holiday specials from their childhood!
TV Timer. While I too love Frosty, be sure to put on a TV timer so it does not keep anyone up the rest of the night.
Or use your DVR and tape it so you can watch it earlier in the evenings.
7) Time Zone Terror. When traveling across time zones it will affect your sleep.
Travel. Give your body a full day to recover for each time zone you cross.
House Guests. If you have guests coming from another time zone, their sleep schedule may affect yours! Ask them what time they usually get up, so you can be prepared to either let them sleep a little later than the rest of the house (If they are traveling east) or you want to leave out some breakfast (If they are traveling west).
I want you to be sure to give this gift to yourself, and it is most definitely a gift you can share - the
perfect gift to "re-gift"! Particularly to everyone you care about. The gift of sleep is truly the gift of health.
While these are only a start to a healthy sleep holiday, these tips will be sure to help you avoid a real Nightmare! Wishing everyone sweet dreams for this holiday season and all the holidays you may celebrate.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep DoctorTM