Holiday Stress Can Disrupt Your Sleep
The days may be shorter, but that doesn’t mean we have less to do. Work doesn’t stop and daily struggles don’t disappear with the end of the year. The stresses of life continue and the forced merriment with which we are expected to face them over the holidays can serve to intensify them. Statistics published by the American Heart Association last year found “that more cardiac deaths occur on December 25 than on any other day of the year; the second largest number of cardiac deaths occurs on December 26, and the third largest number occurs on January 1.” Sometimes, taking to bed is required simply to survive the holidays. Down Etc’s goal is to make bedding so comforting that you look forward to that prospect.
Experts have found, without enough sleep, your risk for heart disease and heart attack goes up regardless of all the other factors such as age, weight, exercise, and smoking. Although sleep, or lack thereof, can affect your heart, there are some straightforward ways you can protect your sleep—and your heart—over the holiday season.
1. Sleep Disorders Contribute to Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep disorders, which affect as many as 70 million Americans “have been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.” Of the 80 sleep disorders that have been identified, the most common are insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea. In fact, “As many as 1 in 2 adults experience short-term insomnia at some point, and 1 in 10 may have long-lasting insomnia.” Poor sleep that may be caused by sleep disorders contributes to the risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress, inflammation, and depression.
2. Even a Small Loss of Sleep Can Negatively Affect Your Heart
“Even going to sleep or waking up 60 minutes off your usual schedule from day to day could potentially impact the heart over time.” Over time, poor sleep can also lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt your heart including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices.
3. Sufficient Sleep Is Required at All Ages
“Now, a recent study on people in midlife finds that having a combination of sleep problems — such as trouble falling asleep, waking up in the wee hours, or sleeping less than six hours a night — may nearly triple a person's risk of heart disease.” For this study, “Researchers chose to focus on people during midlife, because that's when adults usually experience diverse and stressful life experiences in both their work and family life. It's also when clogged heart arteries or atherosclerosis (an early sign of heart disease) and age-related sleep issues start to show up.” However, creating good sleep habits should begin when we are young. “Adolescent sleep disturbance predicts adult sleep disturbance. Over half of adolescents don’t get enough sleep on school nights.” Quality sleep is a gift you can give to the whole family.
4. Women Suffer More Sleep Issues
A recent study found, “Although women reported more sleep problems, men were more likely to suffer from heart disease.” However, “women are at greater risk for poor sleep” and they “are more susceptible than men to the negative effects of insufficient sleep, like inflammation, and are more likely to develop mental health disorders, which raise the risk of heart disease.” Women’s sleep can be particularly affected as they go through menopause during which time they may suffer from the inability to fall or stay asleep.
5. See Your Doctor with Sleep Problems
The following suggestions for improving sleep may help get you through the holidays; however, if you’ve tried all the suggestions and still can’t fall or stay asleep or you’re suffering the effects of poor sleep, such as daytime fatigue, you should see a sleep specialist.
Protect Your Sleep and Your Heart
The American Heart Association cannot exactly explain the phenomenon of increased heart attacks during this time of year, but the factors include the stress of the holidays when routines are disrupted, we eat and drink more, and we exercise and relax less. During the holidays, sleep can take a backseat to getting everything else done. Instead of turning to sleep medication, which have known side effects, or alcohol, which can negatively affect the length and quality of your sleep, experts suggest certain activities to improve your “sleep hygiene,” by encouraging behaviors that promote sleep and discouraging behaviors that are bad for sleep.
1. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is extremely important to get adequate sleep and keep your heart healthy. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep. “It’s not known why going off a regular sleep schedule (with consistent bed and wake times) affects the heart, but sleep inconsistency may disturb the body’s circadian rhythms. Heart rate, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular functions vary with the time of day and may become disrupted by inconsistent sleep.”
If holiday obligations are causing you to go to bed later than usual, consider taking a short nap during the day. Naps can help you catch up on sleep and reduce stress. Make sure it is a short nap and early enough in the day that it does not interfere with your sleep at night.
2. Establish a Bedtime Routine You Find Relaxing
An evening routine that includes soothing activities like a hot shower or bath, drinking caffeine-free tea, reading, praying, or meditating can foster sleep. Make certain you are sleepy when you go to bed to avoid becoming frustrated.
3. Balance Your Exposure to Light
Expose yourself to sufficient natural light early in the day. Getting adequate natural light during the day helps your circadian rhythm. Try to avoid blue light from screens at night, especially right before you sleep. Keep your devices off before bedtime. The blue light emissions from your devices tend to disrupt the natural release of the sleep hormone known as melatonin, which in turn disrupts your sleep. “Put away ALL electronics two hours before bedtime.”
4. Get Enough Physical Activity
Exercise during the day can help you sleep at night. No amount of exercise is too small. Consider a walk to clear your head and to release the stress of the day.
5. Create the Right Environment for Sleep (and Sex)
Create a cool, dark, and quiet environment for sleep. Experts recommend using your bedroom only for sleep and sex. “Doing other activities in bed will train your brain into thinking that activities other than sleep are appropriate in bed.”
Finally, make your bed a destination you look forward to reaching, comfortable and hygienic. Down Etc is always happy to help you to build your bedding from the bottom up.
Celebrate the holidays with a great night’s sleep and a healthy heart.
-The Team at Down Etc
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