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We all know to drink enough water, eat nutritious foods, and exercise regularly. But what about sleep? This oft-forgotten health habit is crucial to living a healthy life. Here’s what you need to know about sleeping well this holiday season.
Juggling holiday stress
“With the holidays, most of us are shopping, going to parties, or hosting get-togethers. You end up adding a lot of stress to your daily routine,” says Sarah Hussain, MD, DSM, sleep medicine and family medicine specialist and medical director of the Sycamore Sleep Center. “Prioritize and try to plan way ahead. That extra stress affects everything you do—including your sleep.”
For many of us, sleep is the first habit to go in times of stress. But lack of sleep leads to fatigue, irritability, and grogginess. Even during the busy holiday season, it’s crucial to care for yourself by incorporating rest.
How much sleep do I need?
Dr. Hussain recommends aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep to feel refreshed. She also advises not to underestimate the power of a quick nap. “Taking 20-30 minutes to refresh gives you more energy, boosts your mood and helps you be more present to enjoy the time you have with family and friends.”
In addition to sleeping enough, it’s important to get good quality sleep. “During the holidays especially, we tend to eat a lot more rich foods and consume more alcohol and caffeine,” Dr. Hussain notes. “What we eat can have a major effect on our sleep quality.” And don’t ignore exercise. Even though it can be hard to carve out the time for a full workout, just performing some physical activity to get the heart rate up and produce endorphins can help you sleep better. Just ensure that you’re exercising more than two hours before bedtime to not disrupt the sleep cycle.
The importance of a routine
Establishing a sleep routine is crucial. “A lot of us tend to slack off on the weekends, staying up late and getting up late,” Dr. Hussain says. “But if you can keep the same daily routine even on the weekends, it can really make a difference.”
Dr. Hussain recommends making your bedroom comfortable and congenial for good sleep. Establish that the bedroom is only for sleeping and make sure it is cool, quiet, and dark. Avoid stimulation before bed, like television or electronic devices.
One of the most common sleep challenges, Dr. Hussain says, is struggling to calm the mind down. “We have to learn to stop worrying, shut the mind down, and relax.” Dr. Hussain advises that if lack of sleep is interfering with your daily routines, consider an evaluation with a sleep specialist. “Sleep disturbance can affect your day-to-day function, from your relationships to your work efficiency to your mood. When you’re well-rested, everything else falls into place.”