Sleeping Well During the Holidays

Sleeping Well During the Holidays

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holidays!

For some of us, this conjures up feelings of excitement, comfort, and joy, but for others, it means family drama, stressful shopping trips, and spending money they don’t have. One thing we can all relate to during this time of year is the lack of sleep that results. Most of us are already sleep deprived, and hearing about the effects of sleep deprivation only adds insult to injury.

Why Am I Not Sleeping Well?

  • Traveling and Jet Lag – In 2011, nearly 30% of Americans traveled 50 miles or more from their home during the holidays. Long flights and time zone changes, as well as an unfamiliar sleeping environment, can cause sleep disturbances. If you are planning to cross over more than two different time zones, try to get on your new cycle as early as possible – go to bed an hour later or earlier each night up until the time you leave. Staying in a hotel or even with friends and family takes some adjustments. Try to ease the transition by making the room as conducive and familiar as possible; bring your pillow or something that reminds you of home.
  • Parties and late nights – Never-ending social obligations can take up your precious slumber time. Be mindful of your packed schedule and either fit in time for rest or learn to say 'no' so you don’t end up overcommitted and irritable.
  • Stress – Whether you are hosting your family, baking cookies for your kid’s teachers, researching the best holiday gift sales, or trying to determine when to fit in a visit with Aunt Sally on the way to the grandparents house, we all have some form of stress this time of year. One word of advice: simplify! Some gift-giving time-savers: shop online, buy gifts early instead of last minute, or prompt a Secret Santa drawing so you have fewer gifts to buy. This will not only save time, it will clear your head of To-Dos preventing you from a peaceful sleep.
  • Heavy meals - Hearty foods and overeating can make you uncomfortable and cause heartburn. Eat mindfully and try to finish eating at least 3 hours before you lie down. This will allow for proper digestion and support proper hormone release during slumber, leaving you refreshed enough to tackle the holiday festivities the next day.
  • Drinking alcohol and/or caffeine – A few toddies might make you sleepy initially, but once they wear off, you wake up. Alcohol makes it harder to sleep throughout the night by disturbing your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Think a warm cup of coffee before bed won’t affect you? It can take up to eight hours for the stimulating effects of caffeine to wear off, so if you need your caffeine fix, get it early. Another potential cause of sleep disruption includes repeated trips to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Foods that help you get your ZZZ's

Bananas – Bananas are rich in potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which, according to an article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, is necessary for the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. They also contain tryptophan, which converts to serotonin and melatonin, the brain’s key calming hormones.

Whole grains – Complex carbohydrates like bulgur, barley, oats, and others are rich in magnesium. Consuming too little magnesium may make it harder to stay asleep, according to research found in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Try a small bowl of oatmeal. Oatmeal is warm, soft, comforting, easy to prepare, inexpensive and nourishing. It’s high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium—vital nutrients to support sleep. This dietary staple also has B6, to help relieve stress, and melatonin, to induce sleep.

Kale – A great source of absorbable calcium to relax muscles and help promote sleep. Calcium is effective in stress reduction and maintenance of nerve fibers, including those in the brain.

Chickpeas – Chickpeas are an abundant source of serotonin-producing vitamin B6. B vitamins have long been used to treat insomnia and help alleviate stress and anxiety. Beans in general are a great source of B vitamins — they not only contain B6, but also niacin and folate.

Almonds – A great source of magnesium to promote sleep and muscle relaxation. Almonds also contain proteins to keep blood sugar stable during slumber, preventing rising due to hunger or cravings. A handful of nuts are a great bedtime snack because they help boost serotonin levels in the brain and are an excellent source of tryptophan. Walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are also great natural sedatives.

Chamomile tea - This warm beverage has been used for a long time as a very helpful and safe sleep aid. Another good option might be caffeine-free green tea. Green tea contains theanine, which helps promote sleep.

Tart cherries (cherry juice) – To top it off! Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Rochester found that cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boosted the body’s supply of melatonin. The jury is still out on how much is needed to reap the benefits, but in whole or juice form, they definitely wouldn't hurt.

Registered Dietitian


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