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Should never a good night’s sleep be forgot: Sleep and the holidays

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For Americans looking for a good night’s sleep, this time of year presents a unique challenge. There’s a different dynamic at play, with darker days combined with the heightened activities and expectations of holiday festivities.


Along with the joys of welcoming home college-aged kids and seeing old friends are the stresses of shopping, travel, social events, cooking, cleaning, and decorating. Routines, such as exercise and healthy eating, are upended amid the time crunch and hard-to-resist party food and drink. Further, December can be a very busy time at work and school. And then there’s always the unpredictable winter weather in some parts of the country that can throw a monkey wrench into the most carefully crafted plans.


With the holiday hustle and bustle, sleep can easily get shortchanged, affecting overall mood and physical well-being.

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A time of assessment—and an opportunity to help patients

As December draws to a close, people find themselves reminiscing about the year’s events, perhaps reflecting on their life in a more meaningful way. At the same time, they are looking forward to the New Year, a new mind-set, better habits—“a new year, a new me.”


This presents an opportunity for you to help your patients focus on and rethink their sleep habits, and how to approach sleep in ways that can help improve their quality of life. Sleep can positively affect school and work performance, personal safety, quality of life, obesity rates, and mortality rates, so patients can be encouraged to establish healthy sleeping patterns.


Consider developing a “healthy sleep” checklist1 for your patients that might include the following: 

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Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.

This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.2

Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.3

A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.

If you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. 

Power napping may help you get through the day, but if you find that you can't fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help.

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Exercise daily.

Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.

Evaluate your room.4

Design your sleep environment to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Eliminate sources of noise and light as best you can and keep your bedroom cool.

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Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.5

Make sure your mattress is comfortable, supportive, and hasn’t exceeded its life expectancy (about 9 to 10 years). Have comfortable pillows, too, and make sure that you aren’t allergic to the material they’re made of.

Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms.6

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HOLIDAY ALERT! Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.

Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine7 can disrupt sleep. Eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. Avoid eating large meals for two to three hours before bedtime.

Wind down.

Your body needs time to shift into sleep mode, so spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading. Try to avoid screens before bed; their particular light source can activate the brain.

If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.

Associate your bedroom with the act of falling asleep. Do other activities elsewhere.

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If you’re still having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor!

Reset your own practice for the New Year  

It’s a New Year for your practice, too, so take the opportunity to reassess your practice approach. Here are a few ideas to consider:


Expand your sleep center’s educational program with workshops on new mask designs, advanced PAP technologies, and automated sleep scoring.


Create a “best practices” checklist by reviewing sleep lab and sleep clinic protocols or starting a quality improvement initiative.


Use the holidays as a springboard to advise your patients on how to make positive change in their sleep habits—and in their quality of life. And consider a fresh approach to your practice by reimagining how new technologies with enhanced connectivity can address conditions like sleep apnea and suboptimal sleep cycles, improving overall patient health in the New Year.


AWAKE study results now available

Report of the Patient-Focused Medical Product Development Meeting on Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep & Respiratory Newsletter

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