Relationships

Stay rested during holidays

A long winter’s nap may not be an option, but you can still guard your sleep amid hustle and bustle

Special to The TribuneDecember 17, 2013 

THE MODESTO BEE

Give yourself a well-deserved gift this holiday season by ensuring you’ve had sufficient rest.

“In normal times, as many as 20 percent of American adults report they don’t get enough sleep on a daily basis,” says psychiatrist Albert S. Yeung, director of primary care research at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Depression Clinical and Research Program. “It can take days to recover from insufficient sleep, and meanwhile, an individual’s mental functioning may be compromised.”

During the holidays, the problem intensifies to epic proportions.

“We steal time from our sleep to get everything done,” Max Hirshowitz, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told the Houston Chronicle. “During the holidays, there’s a lot to do, and there are more people out there doing it. You’re in stores waiting in line. You’re in traffic waiting to park. If you’re sleep deprived, those things can be more frustrating, which is stressful.”

We also let go of our routines. We eat different foods or skip yoga class on Thursday morning, all because we have other to-dos on our list. What we forget is that these ho-hum activities provide structure that keeps us physically and emotionally grounded to our world. When those bonds are temporarily loosened, we immediately feel out of sorts.

To make matters worse, daylight hours are at their shortest supply right now, increasing the potential for disturbed mood and sleep.

All this negatively impacts our mood and thought processes.

A study published in a recent Journal of Neuroscience reported that subjects who didn’t previously have anxiety disorders became as anxious as those who did when they were deprived of enough sleep. These findings led researchers to theorize that adequate, good-quality sleep might help many who suffer with excessive worry and fear.

In addition to increased anxiety, research has also linked sleep deprivation to problems concentrating, poor memory, difficulty learning, faulty decisionmaking, slowed reaction times and poor impulse control.

Fortunately, there’s plenty we can do to get the shut-eye we need so the holidays are merry and bright.

Just see the tips below.

HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR REST DURING THIS HECTIC HOLIDAY SEASON

• Be realistic. If you’re overly stressed because of the holidays, then you’re trying to do too much. Cut back on your commitments until you feel calmer. One more gift or an uber-cute decoration is never worth your shattered psyche.

• Party wisely. It’s fine to celebrate at the office party. But be wary of rich sauces and too much liquor. Bad food choices last far longer than the white elephant gift you take home with you.

• Dedicate separate spaces to sleep and work. Don’t wrap presents, eat snacks or write Christmas letters while you’re under the covers. That gives your body confusing signals about relaxing or remaining alert.

• Get organized. Running around at the last minute increases stress and makes it hard to fall asleep. Spend a few minutes creating a plan of attack. You’ll feel more focused and in control.

• Wind down an hour before you plan to sleep. It’s hard to immediately drop off to sleep if you’ve been going full bore all day long. Decide on a routine that signals quiet time is ahead. A warm bath, a book and a dark quiet room all predict sleep is on its way.

• Exercise. A brisk hike up San Luis Mountain may be just what you need to feel both invigorated and relaxed.

• Take a short nap. Naps aren’t generally recommended for folks with sleep problems. But for a temporary refresher, they work wonders. Thirty extra mid-afternoon minutes can rekindle your holiday spirit.

Enjoy!

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewis griffith.com.

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