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The holiday season can be stressful and hectic. Sleep time is recovery for our mind and body—a gift we give to  ourselves each night!

Here are some healthy holiday sleep tips I recommend for improved sleep health that you can also use throughout the year.  

 

Bedtime rituals

Check the heat. We tend to turn up the heat during colder months when temperatures drop. That can lead to bedrooms too warm at night. Good sleep includes a cool temperature, dark room and quiet environment.

 

Make a list or worry journal. Written lists help to free our mind from worrying about our daily or next-day concerns. Do this a few hours before bed to unload all of the daily items that burden you. Use the time before bed to practice gratefulness and fill your thoughts with positive images of what makes you grateful.

 

Slow and deliberate breathing. Help reduce your stress level by practicing 4-7-8 slow breathing if you experience difficulty falling or staying asleep. Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then breathe out slowly over a count of 8 seconds. Keep in mind: 4-7-8. 

 

Electronics. Keep electronics and bright lights out of your bedroom. We need to sleep in dark sleep quarters to not suppress our melatonin due to exposure to bright lights—especially blue light. Keep TVs and cell phones out of the bedroom. Recharge yourself with sleep with the same purpose and attention we extend to recharging our phones fully every night.

 

Consistency

Holiday seasons often means parties, family visits and shopping that can interfere with our set wake and sleep schedule. Try to be consistent with your schedule. But, if you can’t be consistent due to an office party or family gathering, then “bank” extra sleep in the nights before so you have a reserve for those days that empty your sleep tank.

Try and follow the 80% rule: get to bed and wake up within the same hourly time range for both sleep and wakeup at least 80% of the week.

 

Diet

Alcohol. Fragments your sleep and causes you to wake up often in the second part of the night as the alcohol wears off. It also causes extra trips to the bathroom and dehydration. Alcohol relaxes the muscle tone in your airway, which causes snoring and increased risk of apnea.

 

Heavy or spicy meals. Sleep is disrupted by meals that cause you to digest instead of rest. Try to have your meals earlier in the evening so you allow true rest to your body at bedtime. It’s tough for your body to multitask and repair daily damage when resources are diverted to digestion.

 

Traveling

Air travel. Prepare yourself if your trip involves time changes that cause jet lag. This type of travel disrupts your body’s clock and it takes about one day for each time zone crossed to re-establish a circadian rhythm. It is easier to recover from traveling west than from traveling east as it is easier to stay up longer than to go to bed early.

 

Driving. Please don’t drive drowsy. It is as dangerous as drunk driving.

 

Sleeping in different locations. If sleeping in hotels or at a friend's or relative’s home over the holidays, bring familiar items such as a pillow, blanket and white noise machine. Lavender spray can help make the bedroom more familiar and calm your brain. If you use a CPAP device for your sleep apnea, please make sure to use it even when you are on vacation. 

 

Shopping

No sale is worth your health. Although tempting, try and refrain from those middle of the night box store outings. It will disrupt your circadian rhythm and could lead to dangerous drowsy driving. One night of lost sleep severely reduces your immune system and leaves you vulnerable to catching a cold or the flu.

 

Naps

Disrupted holiday schedules may make you feel the need to supplement missed nighttime sleep with naps. If so, try to nap early in the day so as not to disrupt your sleep urge at night. Keep naps to either 30 minutes or 90 minutes to avoid waking from your nap at other times that may cause inertia since they are mid-cycle of sleep stages. Ninety minutes allows for about one complete sleep cycle. 

 

Get help for sleeping issues

  • Do you snore?
  • Do you stop breathing during the night?
  • Do you wake up with headaches?
  • Are you excessively sleep during the day?
  • Have you gained weight recently?

A referral for a sleep consult is recommended if you answered "yes" to two or three of these questions.

If you snore or feel tired during the day even after sufficient sleep quantity, or need several cups of coffee or soda to get through the day, you may have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when your airway collapses during sleep and you stop breathing. It’s a burden to your cardiac and brain health and is associated with obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also negatively impacts our immune system.

Or, perhaps you simply can’t fall sleep or stay asleep due to insomnia over several months.

Catholic Health sleep centers across Long Island are here to help no matter your sleep issue.

 

Learn more about Catholic Health sleep services.

 

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.

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