As the Twelve Days of Christmas fall upon us, we want to reiterate how important healthful sleep is to maintaining our wellness and vitality during the holiday season and throughout the year. Here are 12 holiday tips to healthier sleep that you can implement tonight without any expense!
1. Don’t stay up late wrapping presents! Sticking to a routine sleep schedule will help keep your mind and body accustomed to your sleep patterns. Your body won’t make up for the lost sleep if you try to sleep in over the weekend.
2. No ice skating too close to bedtime. Exercising is very important to keep your body healthy, but exercising too close to your bedtime makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Try to get your exercise in a few hours before going to bed to ensure your body has a chance to wind down.
3. Put down the Christmas cigars. In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Cousin Eddie empties his tenement on wheels in front of Clark’s house while smoking a cigar (see below). Little did Eddie know that cigars, like other nicotine products and caffeine, are stimulants and stay in your system for several hours making it hard to fall asleep. So kick the nicotine and caffeine, especially close to bedtime.
4. Easy on the Egg Nog and Hot Totties! Alcohol before bedtime can rob you of critical sleep cycles and can contribute to sleep-breathing related disorders.
5. If you steal Santa’s Christmas cookies, only take a few! Don’t overindulge in foods or drinks near bedtime. This can increase the chance of waking up with indigestion and/or the need to use the restroom while sleeping.
6. Some medications disrupt sleep if taken close to bedtime. If you find the medications you are taking result in loss of sleep talk to your health care provider to see if you can change the time of day you take them so they are not as disruptive – they might have an alternative schedule that better suits your sleeping needs!
7. No late afternoon winter naps. Napping too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep when you do lay down for the evening. Try to avoid napping later in the afternoons.
8. Read a Christmas Story before bed. Try to relax your mind by turning off the TV and doing something peaceful like reading before bed. This will get your mind in the right mood to shut down for the evening.
9. Turn off the Christmas lights before bedtime. Lights that can enter your bedroom windows can be disruptive to sleep. Make sure your bedroom blocks out all light and is set to a cool setting.
10. Icy hands and feet are a good thing! Having your body temperature cool before bed helps notify your body it’s time to slow down and settle down for the night.
11. Enjoy the winter wonderland during the day! Exposure to light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm in line and also provides much-need natural Vitamin D. Your circadian rhythm will help your body’s clock know when to sleep and when to be awake and the Vitamin D will help promote your immune system during the winter.
12. Don’t let visions of sugar plums keep you up. If you find yourself awake in the middle of the night for more than 20 or 30 minutes, try doing a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy again. A watched pot never boils, and a person trying to fall asleep usually can’t. Take your mind off of sleeping until the urge to sleep grabs you!
We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season! To get more information on healthy sleep, we suggest reading Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker, Ph. D. (Credit to Dr. Walker for creating healthy sleep habits we can all implement.)