HEALTH

9 ways to ensure a restful holiday

Tis' the season to be merry, but when you add up all those late-night parties, the shopping stress and overload of holiday 'cheer' it could all wreak havoc on your 'long winter's nap.' Dr. James Maas, professor of psychology at Cornell University and sleep research expert, gives tips to survive the holiday season by getting better sleep.   

Pick Up a Book Before Bed

Pick Up a Good Book Before Bed

"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house... " 

It works for most children, so why no pick up a book before bed? 

Maas says before turning out the lights, try reading a book to help to make you sleepy. But if you are trying to get in all that end of the year paperwork before New Years, Maas says, don't! Reading work-related materials could keep you awake, making your mind race. Choose something that will get you ready to sleep and allow you to shut off your mind before you hit the pillow. Listening to light classical music can also help.  

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Keep a Regular Sleep/Wake Schedule

Keep a Regular Sleep/Wake Schedule

The Elves might be up all night making toys, but your body gets in sync to a sleepy and alert phase. If you are going to bed during the holiday season at 1 a.m. each night instead of your regular 11 p.m., it will be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. It will also be more difficult to get back into your normal routine in the New Year. 

"You have one biological clock; you don't have one of the weekdays and another for the weekends or holidays," Maas said.

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Leave the Cookies for Santa

Leave the Cookies for Santa

Holiday parties, gift baskets, warm cookies — they are all favorites during the holidays, but Maas says over-eating, especially when it comes to sugary foods, can actually disrupt your sleep and keep you from falling asleep. 

"What we do during the day does impact your sleep at night," Maas said. He suggests a light dinner with a pre-bed snack. "Try eating simple carbs 45 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime, maybe some whole wheat crackers with hummus, or cut up vegetables. And have a glass of water or even warm milk which is comforting and soothing." 

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Avoid Alcohol Three Hours Before Bed

Avoid Alcohol 3 Hours Before Bed

It might be tough to do during the holiday season, but Maas says avoid alcohol within three hours of bedtime and caffeine after 2 p.m. Both alcohol and caffeine reduce REM sleep. 

"Alcohol disrupts the REM stage of sleep. This is where 85 percent of dreaming takes place and it's an important stage for memory," he said. 

Many people may use alcohol as a sleep agent, but too many cocktails will disrupt your sleep, waking you up every 90 minutes. 

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Avoid Screentime One Hour Before Bedtime

Avoid Screen Time 1 Hour Before Bed

Looking for last-minute gifts online? Tuning in to your favorite holiday movies? Maas says these activities are only going to keep you up when you want to go to sleep. His suggestions?  Avoid television, the Internet, video games and iPads within one hour of bedtime. The monitors we stare at emit blue wavelength light, which triggers an alerting mechanism that can keep you awake. Maas compares looking at these monitors as looking into daylight, which can depress the melatonin in your brain making it difficult to fall asleep. 

Also, the content of television and video games is often stimulating, which could make it harder to fall asleep.  

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Counter Holiday Stress With Meditation

Counter Holiday Stress With Meditation

Running around from store to store, trying to find the right holiday gifts? Baking, cooking, and prepping for the big Christmas Dinner? Maas suggests taking a few minutes out of your busy day to mediate. 

"Light yoga, stretching and meditation before bedtime can allow your mind to calm down and turn off after a busy day and help you sleep better," he said. 

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Traveling to Grandma's House for The Holidays? Take Your Own Pillow

Traveling to Grandma's House for the Holidays? Take Your Own Pillow

Maas suggests two things when traveling during the holidays: 

1. Take your own pillow along for the trip; 

2. Build exercise into your schedule to help you get to sleep better. 

"You get used to a certain pillow, if you go to someone's home or a hotel, you might not get a good night's sleep because you are no comfortable." Having a good pillow also makes a huge difference. Maas recommends one that keeps your head, neck and spinal cord in ailment, almost as if you were standing up. When traveling, have your pillow handy to use while napping.

Exercising around noon or in the early evening, between 5-7pm, can help improve your quality of sleep at night. Working out heavily an hour or two before bedtime could make it hard to fall asleep. And you are more prone to injury when working out right after you wake up, so make sure you have had at least 8 hours of sleep and stretch first.    

Let Santa Do the Late Night Driving

Let Santa Do the Late Night Driving

Unless you have a sled and "eight tiny reindeer" keep the late night driving to a minimum. Most people during the holiday season do not get enough sleep to be driving long distances. 

"If you need to drive to be with family on Christmas, it is better to leave after a good rest," Maas said. 

Statistics show that even when drivers aren't under the influence, drowsiness and fatigue are responsible for approximately 80,000 car accidents per day in the U.S.  

After holiday parties and one to many cocktails, is another time to not drive. Maas revealed that one drink of alcohol on six hours of sleep is the equivalent to six drinks on eight hours of sleep when it comes to getting behind the wheel.  

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Add Sleep As Your New Year's Resolution

Add Sleep as Your New Year's Resolution

Make a commitment in the New Year to get one more hour of sleep every night for optimal health. Maas says adults need about 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. The optimal amount of sleep will make you feel wide awake and alert all day. 

"The average American needs at least one more hour of sleep than they are actually getting. Most people are always in sleep debt," Maas said. 

One more hour of sleep will increase your alertness and help you be more productive throughout the entire day. 

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9 ways to ensure a restful holiday

Tis' the season to be merry, but when you add up all those late-night parties, the shopping stress and overload of holiday 'cheer' it could all wreak havoc on your 'long winter's nap.' Dr. James Maas, professor of psychology at Cornell University and sleep research expert, gives tips to survive the holiday season by getting better sleep.   

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