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Not a Creature was Stirring: Ten Steps to Better Sleep During the Holidays

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He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. Isn’t that the truth? Fa-la-la-la-yawn! It’s hard to dream about a white Christmas or any other holiday when you aren’t getting enough sleep.  

Adequate shut-eye is no joke, especially around the holidays. When we aren’t getting enough sleep our mind and bodies suffer. And the hustle and bustle of this busy time doesn’t make getting a good night’s rest any easier. 

Most experts agree, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but the truth is most of us don’t get anywhere near that, and a third of us are getting less than six hours of slumber. For obvious reasons, people get less sleep during the holidays. Some of the biggest culprits are travel or visiting family, the pressure to get everything done, hosting family members and financial stress. 

The lack of sleep can affect our immune function, memory and other bodily processes that keep us ho-ho-ho-ing all through the holidays. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of shut-eye may cause us to overproduce white blood cells, which can feel like physical stress or even illness.

So how do we get better quality sleep as we hustle and bustle through the holiday season? Here are a few tips for rest, ye merry gentlemen and ladies. 

Parties: Pick and Choose
The holidays are full of festive affairs, but they can also be time-suckers. By RSVPing to events we really want to attend (instead of showing up for everything), we will thank ourselves later.

Watch the Drinks
Most people can’t “get into the eggnog” before bed without their sleep suffering at least somewhat; alcohol may make you drowsy but can keep you from reaching deep sleep. Plus, that gingerbread mocha we had this afternoon could still be in our system. Understanding how our body reacts to this super-stimulant is important to how and when we enjoy it.

Avoid Bedtime Snacking
Sure, we all have visions of sugarplums during this food-festive time, but avoiding sweet treats or a full stomach at night can help us settle down for our long winter’s nap. Skipping the late-night sugar may also entice sweeter dreams. 

Sweat
Just another reason to move, exercise can increase overall sleep time by over an hour each night. Working out significantly increases our core warmth, so when our body temperature returns to normal a few hours after a workout, it becomes easier to fall asleep. For the best rest, aim to work out no later than two hours before bedtime, as the heartrate needs time to come down to resting. 

Stay on Schedule
Santa didn’t get where he is today by refusing to set an alarm. We should try to keep a fairly constant bedtime and wake schedule, so when the holidays are over, we can go back to life a little more rested. 

Weight Loss
Though Santa has a little old belly so lively and quick, research shows that losing just 10 percent of our body weight significantly improves symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. This includes snoring, which can keep your partner awake too. 

Baby, Its Cold!
Take a chill pill. Set the thermostat a little cooler. Start at 68 degrees and crank it down to 65 degrees or even as low as 60 degrees if you’re still having trouble getting shut-eye. 

Dismiss the Distractions
Before we get nestled all snug in our beds, we should put the cell phone down. Keeping it at least three feet away from our bed will lessen the temptation to look at it. Turning off the alerts is also a good idea. 

Oh Sheets!
When it comes to having a silent night, placing priority on our bedding is a plus. According to most research, the thread count doesn’t matter as much as personal comfort. So, it might be a good idea to put a cozy sheet set on your holiday wish list. 

Relax and Accept the Crazy
It’s a good time of year for everything to be busier, brighter and sometimes even brutal. Accepting the hustle and bustle of the holidays can help us keep our cool, not to mention allow us to enjoy the time with friends and family. 

Sometimes, the actual act of sleeping isn’t possible; ask the man who travels all over the world in one night. But proper rest is definitely important. A 2021 sleep study by MIT researchers says getting more sleep doesn’t necessarily mean more productivity, but rest does help us recoup and recover.

Holidays can make or break our sleep habits and it’s normal to long for a bit more shut-eye. If you think you need additional help with sleep issues, speak with a health care provider about your routine, lifestyle and symptoms. 

Merry Christmas to ALL and to all a sleep tight!

Sources: fastcompany.comnews.mit.edu and sleepfoundation.org.