Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Lack of Sleep

Christmas is the time of year that brings a plethora of different emotions. Christmas is full of love, joy, peace and prosperity. In the past, we would gather together with loved ones to stuff our faces with fabulous food, reminisce, sit by the fire and drink eggnog or hot chocolate. In today’s world we are constantly rushing, frustrated, anxious, and stressed that causes Christmas lack of sleep. We are filled with great excitement for the season, but worried over family finances for buying gifts and family pressures to find time for travel. At some point all of us experience some holiday stress from high levels of anxiety by various expectations and extra activities. We over load our calendar with all the extra things we have to do to celebrate the Christmas season. Christmas lack of sleep is caused by all these extra activities and additional responsibilities which affect our bedtime habits and our ability to fall asleep easy and stay asleep.

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This added stress also affects people’s appetites either by a loss of appetite or overeating. We tend to gain weight during the holiday season because we eat foods we generally don’t eat and usually these foods are high in carbohydrates and sugar. When we are rushed to find those last minute gifts we also tend to satisfy our hunger and lack of time by eating more fast food and eating later at night. These eating habits and stress can upset not only our sleep cycle but can cause us to gain weight due to increased levels of adrenalin and cortisol. High levels of cortisol and adrenalin are known to interfere with our ability to fall asleep and remain asleep. Because we are constantly worrying our body thinks it needs to handle this stressful situation causing a cycle of hormone output, insulin release and hunger. This weight gain can be treated by increasing sleep, reducing stress, eating properly, exercise, and normalizing cortisol levels.

To control your stress take a deep breath (or two), try meditation or yoga, make a list of things that need to be done and get them off your mind, take a warm bath, watch a funny movie (laughter is the best medicine), watch your diet and exercise, take some vitamin C not only will you curb a cold, it also reduces cortisol production) and try to remove a source of stress by delegating some of the responsibilities. Consider taking a sleep aid supplement like valerian, melatonin, GABA, Kava Kava and/or cat nip to alleviate stress and help you to fall asleep. Let your doctor know that you are considering a supplement to make sure it doesn’t interfere with other medication or a medical issue. Since it is winter time you should take a multi-vitamin to make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. Some minerals like potassium and magnesium are essential for the quality and quantity of a good night's sleep You can also have a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime to help you relax and induce sleep.

Christmas also requires us to stay focused to get all our extra seasonal preparations and activities done. Stress and lack of sleep causes us to lose focus and concentration as loss of production can greatly impact the holiday season. Remember that physical activity allows your body to get rid of stress and helps you to relax. Do something for yourself like take up a hobby. Before you go to bed work on your hobby, as it will help you think about something else besides your to-do-list. Also fulfilling a personal goal will give you a sense of self satisfaction and accomplishment that will help you to relax.

Try to stick to a sleep routine by establishing a time to go to bed and wake up. Also allow yourself to get the required hours you need to wake up refreshed and energized. An adult usually needs between 7-8 hours each night. Remove all distractions from your bedroom; this means no TV, no computer, no video games and no pets. Make your bedroom a cozy, dark, quiet, cool place you can associate with a good night’s sleep. If you mind continues to race, close your eyes and take some deep breathes while telling yourself to relax. Think of a happy memory or listen to some relaxing music, the ocean waves or white noise that will ease your mind and help you to fall asleep.

Remember lack of sleep and chronic stress can lead to depression and Christmas depression isn’t unusual. Christmas depression can range from over stress, over work, feelings of inadequacy to get everything done and jealousy of others due to their easy carefree life. Everyone is enjoying their hot toddies by the fire, Christmas parties and time off of work, but you. Anxiety may intensify depression and vice versa. If you are taking anti-anxiety medication be advised that alcohol and lack of sleep may negatively impact medication.

A natural treatment for Christmas depression is to pay attention to the weather as external variables may be crucial in affecting mood and anxiety, such as sun, cold wind, altitude, humidity, barometric pressure, etc. Lack of sun like lack of sleep can intensify depressed feelings. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year, experience depressive symptoms in the winter. There are many different treatments for SAD including light therapy, medication, ionized-air administration, cognitive-behavioral therapy and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin. In fact, when the moon is full, some people may suffer from insomnia, nightmares, strange dreams, and some people even sleepwalk. There is one more interesting fact that some people sleep better when the moon is full, even if its shine falls into their faces.

How can you avoid stress and Christmas lack of sleep? First thing it is usually good to start early while the weather is still warm and you can avoid the crowds at the stores. Since we are well into December and the weather is far from warm, there are a few things you can still do for yourself; start with a list of everyone you will be giving to, check with other members of the family to see if they know what they would like or need this year. I have 5 children to buy for, so when I get the Sunday ads I let them go through it and circle everything that they would like. I pick 3-5 items for each child and I try to create some sort of theme. This year my 10 year old niece is into cooking, so I got her a box of Christmas cookie cutters, a chef hat-mitts-apron set and a pizza set all made by Martha Stewart at Macy’s.

Once you have determined who gets what then you can tally the approximate cost, check for coupons or online sales. Have you set your Christmas budget for this year? If so, can you afford everything on your list? If not, you will have to scale back or find really good deals like there were on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Remember to include on your list people who provide a valuable service, like your mail carrier, hair dresser or children’s teacher or their favorite babysitter. If you went a little nuts over purchasing on Black Friday it is not too late to return most items. It’s always nicer if you can buy your Christmas gifts in your own home without crowds and you can compare prices with many online stores. This can also help you resist buying items that are not on your list and many stores offer free shipping this time of year. If you use credit cards -- and are perhaps already in debt -- you might have a stash of credit card rewards. Find out if you can spend those rewards on gifts or gift cards, or receive cash back.

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There are ways to give without spending a dime. Make no cost stocking stuffers for your family by creating coupons for things they love but seldom receive. Kids can give parents coupons for “no whining” or “no complaining”. Siblings can treat each other with “riding shotgun” or “first in the bathroom”. Parents can offer kids “get out of punishment free” or “choose a snack for movie night”. Add stickers or colors to personalize them for each member of your family.

If money is tight you may decide not to travel this year to visit relatives, instead you can make a phone call, take pictures and share them online or chat online or with a webcam. Remember you can’t do everything. Slow down and savor the moments or you are going to miss out on all the good stuff. A person can only cram so many activities into their calendar. Over committing and lack of sleep can lead to major stress. You need to take care of yourself by eating right, so try eating at home this month, you will not only save money, you will eat healthier and spend more time with your family. Your kids can help with the Christmas preparation by untangling lights and help you remember their activities by keeping a calendar. Plan meals around your schedule to save time and also mark your calendar for family time too. Christmas time is family time and it’s about love and giving, not material possessions. If you are too rushed to take time for yourself and your family it will eventually take a toll on your health. So, if all you want for Christmas is a good night's sleep, please take time to “smell the roses” and create traditions and family memories without the stress and enjoy the holiday!

The content in Christmas Lack of Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
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