Ahhh, being a parent: possibly the source of the greatest joy and greatest stress out there! While it may be stating the obvious, new parents’ sleep health tends to suffer once they welcome their greatest gift(s) into the world (although there are ways to improve it) — but there is another time in every parents’ life that results in a severe decline in their sleep: the holiday season.
Sleep Cycle, a sleep app that tracks users’ sleep in order to improve their health, found in 2018 that parents sleep less, drink more, and generally deal with more stress during the holidays compared to their peers without children. To anyone who is a parent, this may come as no surprise. With gifts to be given, homes to keep up, and holiday meals to be cooked, it’s no wonder that parents across the country collectively become sleep deprived during this time of year.
If you’re a parent, there are healthy ways to combat this fatigue, however, and ensure that you are getting quality sleep as often as possible in the month of December. Read on!
What Can Parents Do to Get Better Sleep?
According to Sleep Cycle’s study, 53% of American parents lose sleep over the holiday season because of “holiday stress,” compared to just 23% of non-parents.
Finding ways to cope with stress during the season is essential, as stress and sleep are intrinsically connected: less stress will lead to better sleep, and better sleep will lead to less stress. The American Psychological Association states that adults who sleep fewer than eight hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night.
A few recommended ways to reduce stress include:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): PMR involves the tensing and then relaxing of the muscles in your body, from your head to your toes. This exercise allows your body to release any pent-up tension, reducing anxiety. Learn more about how to successfully implement progressive muscle relaxation here.
- Journaling: Long-term benefits of expressive writing, or journaling, include feelings of greater psychological well-being and fewer stress-related visits to the doctor.
- Exercise: In a study shared by The American Psychological Association, 62% of the 1,488 adults observed shared that they exercise or walk to help manage stress and that the technique is very or extremely effective.
- Therapy: There is no shame in speaking with a licensed therapist or counselor about the mental toll the holidays are taking on you. By providing an objective, balanced perspective, counselors can identify daily ways to overcome anxiety that work for you.
Be Mindful of Alcohol Intake
While enjoying a few drinks over the holiday season is ok, alcohol should be consumed in moderation with consideration for sleep health. Drinking before bed increases the likelihood of experiencing insomnia-like symptoms — creating a potentially vicious cycle, as people may self-medicate by consuming high amounts of caffeine during the day and then take to drinking again at night to help them fall asleep.
While alcohol will help you fall asleep (it is a depressant, after all), later in the night, sleep quality will take a big hit. Alcohol also has the potential to worsen sleep apnea, as it causes the throat muscles to relax, effectively blocking the airway and making sleep apnea more pronounced.
If you do decide to drink, it’s best to stop doing so, at minimum, three hours before bed. Go easy on the amount, as lighter consumption of alcohol will have far less impact than heavy drinking. Additionally, it’s a good idea to eat a meal as you drink, to help the alcohol metabolize faster. Stick with these tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself and get sleep!
Of course, all of the good habits in the world won’t lead to better rest if you’re a parent with a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a very common condition; symptoms include chronic fatigue, negative changes in mood, and difficulty with concentration and memory. If you’re a parent who believes that you or a loved one may be struggling with sleep apnea, schedule a consultation with Dr. Jeff Rodgers today to start the treatment journey. Parenting is already hard enough when you’re well-rested — no one should have to do it while sleep deprived!