Holidays and Good Sleep Hygiene


The holiday season is well known for being a time to rest, relax and let go of the stress and cares of normal life. Unfortunately, health doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s too much egg-nog, having an extra soda with dinner or stressing about what to get loved ones, the holidays are notorious for affecting healthy sleep. Luckily, maintaining healthy sleep hygiene can help to encourage a restful season.

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Habits or behaviors that effect quality of sleep are collectively known as sleep hygiene. These habits occur before, during and after time spent in bed.

For most people, falling asleep and staying asleep comes naturally. Good sleepers are likely to have developed certain lifestyle and dietary habits that promote sound sleep.  Some people, however, have to be more intentional with their actions. The techniques suggested here may help you sleep better on a regular basis.

What is causing me to sleep poorly?


Many sleep problems are directly caused by stress. If you sometimes have trouble sleeping because of stress, you may start to develop certain strategies, such as regular napping, excessive use of caffeine, us of alcoholic beverages at bedtime, working at night, or sleeping at irregular times. Yet once you have eliminated that stress, your coping strategy may have already become a habit, sometimes causing sleep problems to continue. You may find yourself in a cycle of repeated difficulty falling asleep; tension and a fear of sleeplessness can result.


Caffeine stimulates the brain and interferes with sleep. Coffee, tea, colas, cocoa, chocolate, and some prescription and nonprescription drugs, including some pain relievers, contain caffeine. Although moderate daytime use of caffeine usually does not interfere with sleep at night, heavy or regular use during the day can lead to withdrawal symptoms and to sleep problems at night. If you suffer from insomnia, you should not drink more than two caffeinated beverages a day and you should not have any caffeinated substances after noon.


Nicotine is another stimulating drug that interferes with sleep, and nicotine withdrawal can also disrupt sleep throughout the night. Cigarettes and some drugs contain substantial quantities of nicotine. Smokers who break the habit, once they overcome the withdrawal effects of the drug, can expect to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.


One of the effects of alcohol is a slowing of brain activity. When taken at bedtime, alcohol may help induce sleep at first, but will disrupt sleep later in the night. If you have a “nightcap” before bed, you may have awakenings during the night, nightmares, and suffer early morning headaches. For more sound sleep, you should  avoid alcoholic beverages within four to six hours of bedtime.


Eating a full meal shortly before bedtime can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, as can heavy meals eaten at any time of day or foods that cause stomach upset. A light snack at bedtime, however, can promote sleep. Milk and other dairy products consumed with carbohydrates like crackers, are especially good as bedtime snacks.


Don’t let bad habits that come along with the holidays make you feel less than cheerful. Schedule a sleep study today.


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