Better sleep through the holiday season

Q:  I dread the holiday season because of my insomnia.  I worry about everything, including meals and family visits.  Eventually I get through it but I always feel tired.  Any suggestions?

A:  The holidays can be stressful for many reasons.  One way to cope is to have a written plan.

Break it down into small manageable steps so know what you’ve got to do when.  Doing so helps reduce stress and anxiety, which tend to undermine good sleep.

During this season, it’s important to stay with your usual sleep schedule every day as much as possible.  Consistency helps support better sleep.  Especially important for most people is a consistent wake time, which has the profound effect of both regulating your circadian rhythm and synchronizing it to your homeostatic sleep drive.

However, we suggest you don’t deny yourself family get-togethers or events, even if they take you somewhat out of your normal routine.  Cultivating a good social support network is associated with good mental health and better sleep.  Moreover, the mental stimulation of positive social interaction helps work your brain and effectively tire you out, which also helps support better sleep.

If any of your social engagements involve alcohol, we suggest moderation and switching to plain water an hour or more before the event ends.  This helps to both rehydrate you and reduce the potential for sleep-disruptive rebound later, which are common consequences of over-imbibing.

It may be challenging, but try to stay with your sleep improvement methods during the holidays, whatever they might be.  These may include stress management and control of anxiety.  Consistency with your methods helps, and especially when under increased stress.

Part of your stress and anxiety management should be to examine your expectation of “always feeling tired”.  Are you sure this is absolutely unavoidable?  Or are you unreasonably setting yourself up for a harmful self-fulfilling prophecy?  Understanding how negative expectations and beliefs fuel and perpetuate insomnia is one of the keys to making it better.

Another factor affecting sleep this time of year (presuming you live in the northern hemisphere) are the short days and long nights, which can wreak havoc on some people’s sleep.

To counter this, the smart use of light is important.  Make an effort to expose yourself to bright light first thing upon awakening.  For many of us, that means using artificial indoor lighting that’s sufficiently bright to make up for the lack of natural sunlight.  During the day, try to get outside for at least some time in the sun.

If you don’t have an effective sleep improvement method, or are looking to find something better, continue looking, but you might want to hold off on any big changes until the new year if it might be too disruptive.

In the meantime, keep your chin up.  Good luck and happy holidays.


Explore posts in the same categories: Depression, Health, Holidays, Insomnia, sleep

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