The holidays can be stressful and draining, making it a poignant time to remember the importance of a quality night’s sleep. National Geographic, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and The Public Good Projects, recently produced a two-hour documentary on this subject entitled “Sleepless in America”. The main message: more and more people are not getting enough sleep, which causes a slew of potential negative effects on health.
Getting enough sleep is as important as eating healthy and exercising regularly. During sleep, the body essentially “cleans up” by removing toxic chemicals from the brain. Getting less than the expert-recommended eight hours of sleep can cause a build-up of these toxins, which can in turn increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sleep-deprivation also affects daytime functioning by decreasing cognitive functions like decision-making, memory, communication, situational awareness and reaction times by 20-50%.
Distracting modern technology, busy work schedules and high stress levels can negatively influence the quality and duration of our sleep patterns. Thus, it is important to find ways to reduce anxiety so that you can enjoy a satisfying night’s rest – here are 4 tips to promote calm:
- Healthy Living: Exercising and adopting a healthy diet can reduce stress and promote quality sleep. We recommend about 20 minutes of light daily exercise for seniors.
- Holiday Errands: Shopping for gifts or large family meals can lead to financial and emotional strain. Create budgets and lists, and stick to them! Doing so will reduce worry and help you sleep more peacefully. Consider hiring a caregiver to help with holiday shopping, errands and decorating around the house.
- Family Gatherings: Preparing meals for large family gatherings or organizing rides to holiday events can cause anxiety. Alleviate stress leading up to the event by asking for help from other family members or a caregiver, and create a plan for when you feel overwhelmed.
- Recharging: Take some time to focus on yourself. Whether that means taking a walk, crafting or meditating, do an activity that you find enjoyable and relaxing at least once a week.
Keeping a regular schedule each day will help train your body to recognize when it should be waking up and going to sleep. If your holiday schedule is hectic, start off by creating a simple pre-bedtime routine: dim the lights, turn off the television and other electronics, and read a book or take a bath an hour before going to bed. These activities will prepare your brain and body for a great night’s sleep, leaving you rejuvenated and energized the next day. Most importantly, know your limits and remember that it is okay to take breaks from holiday activities.
For more information on improving sleep quality, read The Senior Sleep Solution. The book contains well-researched strategies, including tips for seniors with cognitive decline and various sleep disorders. You can order it online at Amazon.com or pick-up a copy from your local Home Care Assistance office.