Holiday sleep tips for children and adults from New York Sleep Specialist,
Dr. Anita Bhola, Medical Director,
The Edythe Kurz Center for Sleep Medicine at Nyack Hospital

Holiday time offers an abundance of “To Do’s”: parties, shopping, decorating, school activities and much more. According to Sleep Specialist Anita Bhola, MD of The Edythe Kurz Center for Sleep Medicine at Nyack Hospital, It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement and ignore the fact that we need adequate rest. “Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, impair decision making, and impact your ability to handle all of these demands,” she explains. “Children are also affected by a lack of sleep during these very busy times.” What can you do to ensure you and your family receive enough sleep to enjoy the holidays feeling healthy and alert? Dr. Bhola shares some tips to help ensure a restful holiday season.

Stick to regular bedtime schedules. Try and keep their pre- bedtime activities as normal as possible. Unusual activities before bedtime can disrupt their ability to fall asleep. Be realistic. Don’t expect children will be able to participate in every festivity. Pick and choose; keep a balance that will allow for a regular bedtime for the majority of the season. 

Parents with newborn babies should keep lights dim at night and create a restful atmosphere to encourage sleep. During the day, wake your baby for feeding and expose them to natural light.

It is suggested that adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep a night. That amount of sleep may seem unreasonable, but without it you risk a negative effect on your cognitive ability to handle holiday schedules.

Don’t sleep in after a late night of shopping or celebrating. Try and rise within an hour of your normal wake time so as not to throw off your internal clock. Take a nap during the day, even if for 20 minutes. That break can refresh you and help your body rejuvenate.

Be aware of alcohol intake, especially close to bedtime. Enjoying too many cocktails may make you sleepy, but you will not fall into a deep sleep until the alcohol has been metabolized. Often, after that, vivid dreams make restful sleep impossible. Drink plenty of fluids – water, water and more water.

Watch the sweets and late night treats. Your blood glucose levels will be raised only to drop a few hours later which will signal your body that it is time to refuel – disturbing your sleep. Try eating a lighter dessert and do so several hours before bedtime, giving your body a chance to digest.

Crowded stores, travel, and increased expenses equal stress. The body reacts by increasing adrenaline which interferes with the ability to sleep. Worrying about things keeps us up at night. Try shopping online to eliminate time away from home and late nights of wrapping gifts. If possible, make travel plans early on, pack lighter, ship gifts in advance and go with the understanding that schedules may be delayed, so you can use that down time to read a new best seller.

If you have trouble falling asleep, drinking a warm glass of milk or herbal tea can help soothe you enough to get some rest. Massages, exercise and help from friends are all ways to de-stress and make the holiday season a truly enjoyable time for you and your family.

With road trips to visit family and friends aplenty, drivers very often make the trip by driving at night or without taking any breaks. This can all add up to impairing your ability to drive safely. Drowsy driving can result in crashes, trips to the hospital and even fatalities. Make sure you get a good night's sleep before hitting the road. Avoid alcohol and sedating medications such as antihistamines. Take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours, and do not drive long distances alone. The equivalent of two cups of coffee can increase alertness for several hours. Don't be too rushed to arrive at your destination. It's better to allow time to drive alert and arrive alive. 

Long distant air travel can often cause "jet lag," a phenomenon which can have a profound effect on your sleep and alertness. This condition results from an imbalance in our body's natural "biological clock" caused by traveling to different time zones. When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. Sleeplessness can also occur when trying to sleep in a new or unfamiliar environment. Some simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

  • Select flights with early evening arrivals and try to stay up until 10 p.m. that local time.

  • Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.

  • Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.

  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine on the plane. Both act as "stimulants" and prevent sleep.

  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.

  • Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals.

  • At your destination, try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. Staying indoors worsens jet lag.

  • While sleeping pills do not resolve the biological imbalance caused by jet lag, they may help manage short-term insomnia brought on by travel. Be sure to discuss the use of sleeping pills (OTC or prescription) with your doctor before you try them as these can cause side effects.

Individuals with sleep apnea, who are traveling during the holidays, should carry their CPAP devices and use them regularly. Additionally, individuals with sleep apnea patients should practice mindful eating at holiday feasts as weight gain may be difficult to shed and can render CPAP less effective.

For information about sleep disorders and services at the Edythe Kurz Center for Sleep Medicine at Nyack Hospital, contact 845-348-2209.