Many of us are in the throes of the holidays – from Thanksgiving to Hannukah and Christmas, and New Year’s (and those well-intended resolutions), and the juggling that’s involved to meet the needs of work and family. In times like these, getting enough sleep – and good quality sleep – is more important than ever. If you think you don’t have the time to make changes to ensure you get restorative sleep, I assure you – you do and should. The benefits are extraordinary.
A few simple changes can improve the quality of your sleep, which will have a direct impact on your energy level, health and well-being.
The benefits of sound sleep include strengthening your immune system; maintaining a healthy weight; lowering your risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression; reducing stress; and gaining mental clarity.
Changes can be as easy as adjusting the room temperature where you sleep – it should be between 68 and 72 degrees. Another tip is to stay hydrated throughout the day. You’re more likely to wake up at night with any climate change or from thirst if your body isn’t hydrated. You need to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a 140-pound woman will need to drink 70 ounces of water each day.
It’s also important to go to bed and wake up at consistent times. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you sleep in on a Saturday morning rather than getting up at your usual time you’ll be more rested. Anything more than a half hour variance will have the opposite effect and leave you feeling groggy.
A Bedtime of 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Can Lower Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease
It may be hard to believe, but going to sleep between 10 and 11 at night may help combat heart disease. New research of 88,000 adults, who were tracked for around six years, revealed a 12% greater risk among those who went to sleep from 11 to 11:59 p.m. and a 25% higher risk among people who fell asleep at midnight or later of developing cardiovascular disease. Falling asleep earlier than 10 p.m. was no better. It was associated with a 24% increase in risk of developing heart disease.
According to researchers, these early or late bedtimes tend to disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, which helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle, and physical and mental functioning. This disruption adversely affects cardiovascular health.
Travel Plans Should Include Quality Sleep
Traveling for the holidays is a wonderful way to spend time with family and see new sights. Conversely, it can be stressful to be out of familiar surroundings, but it doesn’t have to affect your sleep. With a bit of planning, you can still get the blissful rest you need. Maybe you’ll be sharing a room with others, like your children, staying in someone else’s home or in a hotel.
Odds are, you won’t all like the room the same temperature: men, women and children may have different internal “thermostats,” but you can make individual adjustments.
Men tend to like the room environment temperature a little cooler than women do. Some research indicates that testosterone might desensitize cold receptors, making men feel warmer. And men tend to have a higher metabolism and more lean muscle mass than women, making them burn calories faster, which can heat up the body. Pregnant women and women going through menopause also tend to like a cooler sleep environment.
It can be helpful to:
- Bring more than one pair of pajamas – then, if the room is warmer or colder than you’re used to, you can adjust what you’re wearing.
- Bring ear plugs and an eye mask to block out any noise and light, and download an app to your phone to block out unwanted sounds.
- Bring your own pillow. An airy, buoyant and clean pillow are crucial to good sleep. I like the Talalay method of processing 100% latex pillows. It results in pillows that promote temperature regulation, as well as maintain consistent density and recovery.
Easy Tweaks to Your Home Sleep Routine and Environment
There are many simple changes you can make at home to ensure you get the rejuvenating sleep that is essential to well-being. These can include:
- Declutter and personalize your environment.
- Use fresh, comfortable bedding.
- Limit exposure to electronic devices.
- Detoxify the air.
- Take a relaxing walk at dusk.
- Shower or bathe before bed.
Declutter and Personalize
Knowing you are waking up to a mess may cause you to linger in bed rather than eagerly approaching your day. When you have that, “I don’t want to get up” feeling, ask yourself why.
Studies show that waking up to a messy kitchen can throw off your entire day. It’s unsettling. If there is clutter at night, that clutter will be there in the morning.
Take a few minutes to straighten up before you retire, then you can create a peaceful, new start each morning.
Surround yourself with things you love, like photos of family and friends, paintings of nature, and plants. Move anything that reminds you of work and things on your to-do list, like a filing cabinet or desk, to another room.
Have Fresh, Comfortable Bedding
Make sure your mattress, pillows and bedding are fresh, clean and inviting. An old sagging mattress can leave you with an aching back so a supportive mattress is a good investment. A breathable pillow and sheets that wick away moisture will also add to the quality of sleep.
Limit Use of Electronic Devices: TVs, Smartphones, Tablets and Computers
Blue light is a type of visible light that computers, televisions, smartphones and tablets often emit when they’re in use, which can make the brain think that it’s daytime. This can suppress the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that your body produces to regulate your circadian rhythm.
A good rule of thumb is to discontinue screen use two hours before bedtime.
It’s also helpful to keep these electronic distractions out of the bedroom.
Detoxify the Air
Lush plants and aromatic essential oils are great ways to detoxify the air and relax the body and mind.
Dark green, leafy plants add oxygen to the air. And many plants also absorb harmful chemicals and pollutants, such as formaldehyde, benzene, trichloroethylene and carbon monoxide given off by paints, cleaners and other products. English Ivy, Bamboo Palm and Aloe Vera are a few good choices that beautify and detoxify a room.
Essential oils have been a popular aromatherapy treatment since ancient times. Many people believe essential oils have health benefits, including fighting off colds, improving memory and relieving headaches. They also can inhibit the growth of airborne bacteria and may reduce microbial contamination.
Studies show that inhaling essential oils can help people with mild sleep issues because they are believed to reduce anxiety.
The most common ways to diffuse oils into the air are with an ultrasonic diffuser or a nebulizer. Generally, diffuse 3 to 5 drops of essential oil per 100 mL of water in an ultrasonic diffuser and 5 to 15 drops of essential oil in a nebulizer. Run the diffuser in your bedroom for 20 to 30 minutes each day. Lavender, cedarwood, sweet orange and chamomile are a few of the essential oils that promote sleep, and they smell wonderful.
It isn’t necessary to make all these adjustments for you to improve the quality of your sleep. Choose what appeals to you. With just a few simple changes, you can ensure you get the healthful sleep you need during this bustling holiday season and year-round.
Ingrid Prueher, Holistic Sleep Coach