5 Steps to Break the Holiday Sleep Cycle
For many families around the country, the first few weeks of the new year can be a struggle when it comes to getting quality sleep. From holiday parties to later-than-average bedtimes, people need time to readjust to a “normal” sleep cycle again. Here are a handful of helpful things you can do to get back into the swing of things:
- Use light to your advantage. Our bodies are designed to respond to light. As such, you should ensure that early in the morning you are subjecting yourself to sunlight or other bright lights when you wake up. This helps your body cut the production of melatonin – a naturally-occurring chemical that helps you fall asleep. Dr. Russell Rosenberg of the National Sleep Foundation says in addition to light, mixing in some outdoor exercise will help reset your circadian rhythms.
- Consistency in your sleep environment. One of the most important things in catching some good shuteye is to put yourself (and your kids) into an environment that promotes quality rest. Setting the thermostat to a cooler temperature and reducing ambient light are good places to start. In addition, using high-quality mattress and pillow protection will limit allergens like dust, dust mites and other irritants from building up and preventing you from snoozing soundly. It’s also a good idea to keep the use of technology to a minimum during the hour or so before bedtime.
- Get the kids back into their normal routine. Your kids’ sleep schedule is just as important to you as it is to them. During the holidays, it’s likely that everyone went to bed at much different times than they normally would. To ease the transition back, ensure that you are sticking to a schedule that is manageable for everyone. For example, if that means lights out by 9 p.m., make sure you plan your pre-bedtime activities accordingly so that you (and your family) can get into a rhythm.
- Time your meals. Another staple of the holiday season is good food. For many, it’s a period of the year where late night snacking is the norm – especially when it comes to sweets. All the pies, cookies and other goodies left over from the various celebrations can be tempting. Experts say that an overindulgence of sugary foods can disrupt sleep patterns and keep you tossing/turning throughout the night.
- Cut out the caffeine. While a couple of cups of coffee or tea are perfectly acceptable (and sometimes needed) to give you that morning jolt, studies suggest that it is wise to keep your caffeine intake to a minimum later in the day. In fact, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School suggests that you avoid consuming caffeine up to four to six hours before your planned bedtime to improve your chance of sleeping soundly.
We hope your new year is filled with plenty of great sleep. Good luck!