As the days begin to shorten in September and kids return to school, we find ourselves returning to a stricter sleep schedule. No more late summer nights and long days. Adjusting our sleep schedule takes a long time and right as we begin to feel like we have found our winter-sleep groove, the holidays come and mess it all up. Shopping trips fill up our days, we stress over cooking the perfect holiday meals, spend endless hours writing and mailing Christmas cards, and entertain relatives we haven’t seen in months. Worse, some of us even face the airport during Christmas time – yikes! We often come out of the holidays feeling like we have had anything but a holiday. Sleep experts suggest that a consistent routine is the key to avoiding sleep disruption.1,2 Even though the holidays are coming to an end, there are a few tricks to help you return to your normal sleep schedule and avoid disruption in the future.
- Make your sleep routine a priority
This applies to both holiday home-bodies and holiday travelers. Regardless of where you are, do your best to achieve consistency. Reinforce your sleep cycle by sticking to your bedtime. Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer from the Cleveland Clinic suggest waking up at the same time each day, even if you were up late the night before.1 For those who travel, Dr. Natalie Dautovich from Virginia Commonwealth University states, “Ideally, you want to protect your sleep by scheduling travel during your normal wake period, not while you’re typically asleep. Frequently though, some changes in our normal rhythm cannot be avoided due to the timing of travel. However, we can minimize the longer-term consequences by implementing healthy sleep behaviors. For example, when arriving at your destination, it’s beneficial to adopt your typical bedtime and wake-up time as soon as possible.”2
- Watch what you eat and drink
Certain foods and drinks can disrupt sleep, especially caffeine and alcohol. Pay attention to your body and take note of how caffeine affects you. Some people don’t drink caffeine after noon, and others can stomach a cup of coffee with dinner and claim to sleep just fine. Regardless, caffeine is a stimulant and should be avoided before bed. Caffeine isn’t just in coffee, but also in some teas, chocolate products (think chocolate ice cream, cookies, fudge, etc.), and most shockingly, pain relievers. According to the Cleveland Clinic, caffeine is a common ingredient in many headache drugs because pain relievers work faster and more efficiently with caffeine, even by up to 40%.3 As far as alcohol goes, even though alcohol is a depressant and induces sleep at first, metabolism of alcohol can disrupt sleep.2 The National Sleep Foundation states that as many as 20% of Americans use alcohol to help them sleep, but it can interrupt circadian rhythm, block REM sleep, and aggravate breathing problems.4
- Learn to relax
Lastly, stress can greatly impact the quality of sleep. Find time to unwind before passing out. You might benefit from an Epson salt bath, a cup of warm milk, or some calming music. The Cleveland Clinic also recommends eliminating ambient light or even wearing ear buds if needed.2 Even though it’s hard, don’t forget to remain active and burn off that extra cortisol in your system. Not only does relaxation help you sleep better, but it will ultimately help you enjoy the holidays more. Tis the season to sleep!
- 7 Ways to Get Better Sleep During the Holidays. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/11/7-ways-to-get-better-sleep-during-the-holidays/. Published November 28, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2017.
- Dautovich N. Avoiding Sleep Disruption During the Holidays. Sleep. https://sleep.org/articles/avoiding-sleep-disruption-holidays/. Accessed December 20, 2017.
- Caffeine and Headache. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9645-caffeine-and-headache. Reviewed December 29, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2017.
- How Alcohol Affects the Quality -And Quantity- of Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-alcohol-affects-sleep. Accessed December 20, 2017.