December 19, 2019 – Some of the best gifts are not the ones that we wrap up and exchange.
It’s like the way adults tend to focus on the present, but kids often like the box more. We tend to think of sleep like the box that contains the gift: something to get out of the way as fast as possible so we can get to the good stuff and do what we really want to do.
But according to Dr. Anuj Chandra, good things happen when we treat sleep as the gift.
“When we give the gift of sleep during the holidays—both to ourselves and to others—everything is better,” said Dr. Chandra, medical director of the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders with locations in Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Ringgold/East Ridge. “During the holidays, we often go to sleep grudgingly, when we’re too tired to continue partying or shopping or getting ready for the family get together. Good sleep helps people feel better, enjoy the holidays more, and deal with stress more easily.”
Healthy Holiday Sleep
Dr. Chandra suggest these ways to make sleep a part of your healthy holidays:
- Make sleep into a gift, literally—Give someone close to you a home-made sleep gift certificate for one early bedtime or one morning sleeping in. The package includes that you do all the things that would normally keep that person from sleeping.
- Give the gift of yourself—For friends and family, let the gift be a morning helping them in the yard or an afternoon doing a project together or taking them out for coffee or a meal. The gift of your time will be more appreciated than anything you could buy, and you’ll reduce some of your shopping-related stress.
- Prepare for parties with a nap—When you know you’ll be up late at a holiday party, take a quick nap that afternoon. A 15–20 minute nap during the day will help you recover more quickly the next day from a late bed time.
- Go easy on the goodies and alcohol—Don’t deprive yourself entirely, but make a point to stop early. You’ll sleep better with less in your tummy. And both rich food and too much alcohol often lead to disrupted sleep.
“If we’re not careful, losing sleep during the Holidays can become part of a very damaging, self-reinforcing pattern that continues into the new year and all year long,” said Dr. Chandra. “When you don’t sleep well, your body can’t recover from stress effectively and you can’t deal with other problems as well, either. Throughout the year, sleep is like medicine because it helps body and mind heal.”
Good Sleep Tips
Dr. Chandra offers these tips for making sure your sleep is healthy and restorative, both during the holidays and throughout the year. Use them yourself and share them with loved ones.
- Have a sleep routine. It may be impossible to keep your normal sleep schedule with parties and travel, but do your best. You will sleep better if you go to bed at the same time.
- Wind down before bed. Meditating or praying is good. Or just observing your breathing: start by counting your breaths, then try to increase the number of seconds it takes for you to exhale. That activates the part of your nervous system that relaxes you.
- Exercise, but not too close to bed time. Exercise is one of the best ways to help your body process the chemicals that stress creates. Get your heart beating and your body moving with a brisk walk or gentle yoga, but do it at least an hour before going to bed so your body has time to relax.
- Don’t toss and turn in bed. If stress or anything else is keeping you awake, get up and do something relaxing to take your mind off your worries.
- No electronics before bed. The blue-spectrum light from cell phones, tablets, computers, and televisions tells your brain it’s time to wake up. Turn everything off an hour before you go to bed and store your devices outside the bedroom.