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Tips for Better Sleep During the Holidays

By Jay Puangco, M.D.

December 1, 2018

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but between festive gatherings, last minute shopping, and family visits – it can be the busiest time of year as well.

To ensure you have the happiest season of all, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of sleep.

Research shows time and again that sleep protects us from physical and mental harm, while sleep deprivation puts us in harm’s way.

Sleep is the foundation of the three pillars of health –diet, exercise, and sleep. Poor sleep can lead to craving for high calorie foods, unhealthy snacking, and fast food, which can be especially tempting during the holidays. There is less desire to exercise. This combination can lead to poor judgment, decreased productivity, and irritability. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a cascade of physical illnesses as common as a cold and as severe as diabetes or heart failure.

Some of us pay thousands of dollars for juice cleanses and vitamin B12 shots, but one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies literally costs nothing and doesn’t hurt a bit. It does, however, require that we prioritize it.

Sleep is as necessary for life as food and water. When we lose sight of that, we delegitimize the importance of sleep and set ourselves up for chronic illnesses, accidents and a pretty miserable existence.

Just think of the type of day you typically have following a lousy night’s sleep. That “foggy” feeling you walk around with all day leads to reduced efficiency and productivity at work, errors and accidents.

Sometimes the effects can be deadly. Every year, poor sleep results in 100,000 traffic accidents, including 1,550 fatalities. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that driving while drowsy is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Here are some tips to help ensure a good nights sleep as the holidays approach:

  • Turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime. Light from TVs, computers, tablets, and cell phones can suppress melatonin and affect the quality of your sleep.
  • Reserve your bed for romance and sleep only. Don’t check your email, watch TV or even read in bed.
  • Keep your room cool at night; a lower temperature helps induce sleep.
  • Try to go to bed at roughly the same time every night to maintain a sleep schedule.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding.
  • Sipping your morning cup of coffee to help get your day going is fine, but avoid any caffeine after lunchtime. The effects of caffeine can linger for many hours after being consumed and can hinder you from sleep.
  • Thirty minutes or more of moderate exercise three times a week can help you sleep better, just try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime.

Dr. Jay Puangco is a neurologist and service chief of the Hoag Sleep Health Program at the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute.