So many fun things to do around the holidays that sometimes getting enough sleep is a problem. And on top of that the holidays do bring on extra stress. Missing sleep and being stressed both can not only leave you grumpy and not so fun to be around, but can also add to weight gain. With all the extra eating at the holidays, who needs even more weight gain? Not me! You can get the sleep you need and control your stress with natural solutions so that you can enjoy all the holiday fun and those around you will be able to enjoy being around you.
Interacting and having fun with others is actually one way of dealing with stress. Less stress means easier to fall asleep at night. What better time to be able to engage with others than at the holidays. Women in particular, according to Shelly Taylor, PhD, a UCLA researcher, with good relationships with friends and their children tend to sleep better. Social engagements during the holidays can actually increase oxytocin levels that block stress chemicals.
Associate professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Dr. Kalyanakrishnan Ramakrishnan, reports that exercise is as beneficial to sleep as drugs taken for insomnia. University of Arizona studies corroborate this, reporting women walking even just 6 blocks a day had better sleep. This is due to exercise lowering the levels of stress hormones your body produces. Just by adding in physical movement to your day you can get to sleep quicker and increase your amount of sleep by as much as 42 minutes. Be sure to stop exercise within about 3 hours of going to bed though so your body has time to wind down and relax. Even if your holiday activities keep you from your normal exercise routine, find substitutions that you can do. Get friends and family to go for a walk with you, have a snowball fight, walk around a mall looking at decorations if the weather is bad; anything that gets your body moving will count.
If you are already doing a lot of eating around the holidays you may not be hungry before bed, but just having a glass of milk with the amino acid tryptophan can help you get to sleep faster. Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, DO, MS, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cleveland Clinic, recommends something light before bed if you are hungry like fruit or granola with your glass of milk. Cheese and crackers make another good bedtime snack. There are other foods that are definitely not conducive to sleep that you should avoid like those with lots of sugar, processed carbohydrates, or with caffeine. You’ll also find it easier to get to sleep and that you will have better sleep by stopping all eating about 2 hours before bedtime. If you eat a lot just before bed, your body is putting a lot of energy into digestion and not getting the down time it needs to rejuvenate. Be sure to go easy on the alcohol too at your celebrations. Alcohol may make you go to sleep faster but it interferes with your REM sleep so you don’t get as good a quality of sleep.
Control Your Schedule and Domain
It’s tempting to want to stay up late during the holidays attending parties or just visiting with family you maybe don’t see very often, but keeping as close to possible to your regular bedtime will help you get the rest you need to keep up with all the holiday fun. Make your bedroom your domain that no one else (of course with the exception of your significant other) is allowed into. Take control of your schedule and your domain by making sure both help you get the sleep your body needs to refresh itself. When you start feeling tired, don’t push yourself to stay up just because everyone else is. Instead excuse yourself and go to bed. There’s always more time to visit tomorrow. If you feel there is a special event you don’t want to miss that will keep you up late, then plan for it with a nap earlier in the afternoon. In addition to controlling your schedule to make sure you have enough sleep time, take control of your bedroom environment making it conducive to better sleep. For example, before going to bed for the night, start dimming the lights as this will help your body produce melatonin which is the hormone responsible for regulating your circadian rhythm that is responsible for the cycle of sleeping and waking the body goes through. Making the room as dark as possible, using low watt light bulbs, avoiding the TV or computer which give off light much like daylight, turning off outside Christmas lights, and any other light sources right before bed can help you get better sleep.
Supplement Your Sleep
Taking one or two capsules of AFA bluegreen algae, especially the form with the cell wall removed, can support relaxation in the brain and allow you to get a peaceful night’s rest. Adding some probiotics to this such as two to four capsules of bifidus can help with digestive symptoms that may interfere with sleep and lead to more restful sleep as this type of bacteria aid in producing the calming and soothing B-vitamins that can help you relax and wind down at night. Taking digestive enzymes throughout the day, at meals and in between, can help your body digest all the extra foods you may indulge in at the holidays. This extra digestive support leaves your body free to take a break when it’s time to sleep instead of having to keep going and expending energy on digestion. And if you are traveling or just attending a lot of holiday events away from home, you’ll find these packets of AFA, probiotics, and enzymes are easy to slip in your purse or wallet to take with you.
You can still have fun at the holidays without wearing yourself to a frazzle. Make sure you take time to enjoy your holidays, but take good care of yourself too by making sure you get good quality sleep. Lower stress and better sleep sounds like a great holiday gift to give yourself.
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