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Donít let the holiday hustle and bustle wreck your healthy sleep
Stay on track, even with increased stress
Published Sunday, December 15, 2019 2:15 pm
by Jason Wooden PhD and Kristal McKinney

Stay on track with healthy sleep habits throughout the holiday season.

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The holidays are coming with the usual celebrations and merriment.  

Lots of great food - fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens and ham hocks, red velvet cake, sweet potato pie, and all of your favorites.  Wall to wall activities whether its shopping, church events, Christmas concerts and parties...

And late-night movies and conversations catching up with family and friends...

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived.  It’s probably worse during the Christmas holiday since many of the things you love can wreck your sleep if you’re not careful.

The holidays are coming, but so is poor sleep.

Let’s talk about some of the sleep wreckers and what you can do to keep things on track.

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Change in routine
Great food, social and religious activities, and spending time with family is why so many people enjoy the Christmas season. Too much rich food at the wrong time can come back to haunt you during the night. If you’re overbooked with late night outings, it’s easier to get away from your normal sleep schedule.

Staying up late with guests can be fun in the moment but also come at a cost to your sleep.  And we haven’t even talked about all the shopping that usually happens this time of the year. All those changes in what you normally do can wreck your sleep which makes sleep hygiene even more important during the holidays.  

Some sleep hygiene tips for the holidays include:

• Stick to regular wake up and bed times as much as possible

• Don’t overdo the food and drinks in the evening

• Avoid late-night caffeine

• Stay physically active

• Give yourself time settle down for sleep

• Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool

This may seem like a tall challenge this time of the year but it’s doable with some planning and creativity. To keep from getting run down and overtired, try sneaking in a nap for those nights you’re going to be up late. The National Sleep Foundation recommends you keep it short and earlier in the day after lunch.
Perhaps, you can get in a daytime walk while socializing or plan for quiet relaxing activities to do with guests in the evening.  You may also need to get some earplugs to block out late night noise from rowdy house guests.   

Dealing with travel
The Christmas holiday season is one of the most popular times to visit family and friends.  The Airlines for America trade association is forecasting that 47 million air passengers will be on the move this year.

With travel comes the challenges of a change in sleep environment and the risk of jet lag as you cross multiple time zones. Jet lag can leave you feeling out of whack and overtired for days as your body’s sleep-wake clock adjust to the new time zone.

To maintain a healthy sleep environment, you can try earplugs to block out nuisance noises and an eye mask for excessive light. For jet lag, melatonin supplements have become popular as a way to help the body adjust its clock to a new time zone. Be sure to check with a doctor about whether its right for you and the best way to use it.

There’s also light therapy which is a natural jet lag remedy. Bright natural daylight tells the body when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep. Your options include going outside for sunshine, portable light therapy lamps, and new innovative light therapy glasses.

The Big 3:  Stress, anxiety, and holiday blues
In an American Psychological Association survey, 38% of people said their stress level increased during the holiday season.  Frequent causes include trying to do too much and spending too much money.  Family issues can also bubble up when everyone is together which can lead to more stress and anxiety.

And for all too many, Christmas is a time of sadness, loneliness, or disappointment. Being away from family or with a dysfunctional family can be a bummer.  Grieving a loved one or spending the holiday alone can also be a real downer.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are all bad for sleep.  Poor sleep can make all three worse.

Some practical things that can help include:

• get a jump start on holiday planning

• be realistic about what you can do

• enlist help from others

• put yourself on a budget

• don’t over commit

• skip optional activities

• avoid family conflict, focus on the positives

• set boundaries with others (say no to people pleasing!)

• give yourself time outs when needed

To keep from getting too down, get out and try some alternative activities such as volunteering.  How about taking a nature walk, watching comedy sketches, or other things that make you feel good?  

And don’t be too shy about enlisting help from a mental health professional and reaching out to your support system. Your friends and loved ones can provide a safety net.
Since poor sleep can make things worse, it’s even more important that you’re doing everything you can to get quality sleep during the holidays.

Jason Wooden, a founder of BetterSleepSimplified.com, has worked for over 20 years in biomedical research and healthcare technology R&D.
Kristal McKinney is a psychotherapist in private practice with over 14 years specializing in the behavioral health of adults, couples, and families.


Talking about hearing protection yet you don't have one of the largest manufacturers of custom earplugs in North America. I've been hoping to see Big Ear as part of your report but I guess it's true that the media is blackballing smaller companies. They are the best earplugs brand not to be included as one of the leading companies.
Posted on December 16, 2019

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