While the holidays are a magical time of the year, they can also cause a lot of stress for several reasons—especially if you’re someone who has sleep apnea and struggles to get great sleep at night. For many people, the holiday season represents busy schedules, added stress, and attempting to have enough time to complete a never-ending to-do list complete with gift shopping, working full time, traveling, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Considering this added stress, those who struggle to breathe and sleep well at night can have an even harder time getting the shut-eye they need to function. This can lead to more restless nights, as well as fatigue and excessive sleepiness that inhibit one’s productivity throughout the day. Coping with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is always challenging; however, it can be even more difficult to get great sleep when you’re traveling or stressed due to the holiday season. Here are five tips that may help you feel more refreshed and ready to celebrate the holidays with your favorite people, whether you’re traveling to a new place or learning to cope with sleep apnea at home.
Bring Cozy Sleep Items with You
No matter where you’re planning on traveling, bringing a piece of home with you can provide you with more comfortable conditions to sleep in. For example, you might have a favorite pillow or blanket you sleep with every night. Don’t forget to bring these items with you to maintain the same comfort level you’re used to at home so you can get great sleep wherever you are.
Here are a few other items you could bring that can help you sleep at night:
- A good book to read before bed instead of watching television or scrolling on your phone
- A white noise machine to block out unfamiliar sounds
- Blue light blocking glasses if you can’t seem to take a break from a nightly episode of your favorite sitcom
- A sleep mask or earplugs
- Relaxing pillow spray in lavender or another calming scent
- Your CPAP machine, oral appliance, or other treatment for sleep apnea
- Sleepy-time tea
Taking the time to make sure your environment is one that helps you feel comfortable will pay off when you’re in an unfamiliar place.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Although it’s true that alcohol can make you feel tired and induce sleep, studies find that it is actually disruptive, causing people to spend less time in the REM stage—the most restorative stage of rest when dreams take place. Disruptions in REM can rob you of the deep sleep you need, leading to daytime drowsiness and poor concentration. In the same vein, alcohol consumption can also induce sleep apnea and worsen your symptoms. This is because it disrupts the natural sequence of sleep states, changing the total amount of time someone sleeps and how long it takes to fall asleep. Additionally, it relaxes the muscles of the airway even further, narrowing it so much that it interrupts your ability to breathe.
When it comes time to celebrate the holidays with your favorite alcoholic beverage, consider drinking less in order to sleep more soundly at night. If anything, avoiding alcohol for several hours leading up to bedtime can minimize the effects it has on your OSA symptoms.
Take Advantage of the Morning Sunlight
Sunlight is a big part of our sleep cycles, especially in the morning. It may seem counterintuitive, but morning sunlight can help you sleep better at night by regulating your patterns of sleep and wakefulness. If you’re someone who struggles to get enough sleep, consider spending time outside within the first hour of waking up. While it may not be possible to get enough sunlight throughout the winter, getting outside can help provide structure to your routine and regulate your sleep cycles.
If you’re hoping to use sunlight to regulate your sleep, here are a few tips:
- Get sunlight within an hour of waking
- Spend 30 to 45 minutes in direct sunlight
- Do not wear sunglasses and visors
- Wear sunscreen
- Focus on getting direct sunlight
A few examples of excellent ways to get sun exposure in the morning are to go on a walk, sit on the patio with your breakfast, or work near an open window. The best way to ensure you always get the sunlight you need is to work it into your daily routine.
Take a Deep Breath and Find Ways to Destress
With the pressure of the holiday season, it may be that stress is keeping you up at night. That’s why it is so important to find ways to reduce stress that work for you. Whether it’s something simple like taking a few minutes to breathe or something more impactful and time-consuming like journaling, identifying a few go-to methods to reduce stress is important for everyone.
Everyone has a different way of calming down after a particularly stressful day. Here are some effective stress relievers that may help you:
- Taking a walk
- Hugging a loved one
- Lighting a candle or enjoying aromatherapy
- Deep-breathing exercises
- Taking a yoga class
The great thing about stress relief is that there isn’t only one way to kick back and relax. In fact, many things in your life can serve as a form of meditation. For example, cooking, painting, and even eating can all be meditative exercises if you let them. Regardless of everything on your holiday to-do list, check in with yourself throughout the day and perform these activities to reduce your stress.
See Your Doctor
If the holidays aren’t the only time you struggle with sleeping well, you may have OSA. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with OSA but think you may have it, here are a few signs that you may be right and it’s time to see a doctor:
- You snore loudly at night.
- You wake up regularly throughout the night while gasping for air.
- You’re excessively sleepy throughout the day.
- You have morning headaches.
- You cannot concentrate throughout the day.
- You wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat.
If you have been diagnosed with the disorder but are struggling to control your OSA symptoms and sleep well, it may be time to see your doctor. They will be able to reevaluate your treatment options and find something that helps you more effectively. At the end of the day, the quality of your sleep is absolutely essential to your health. Don’t compromise for anything less than great.
The holidays don’t have to be filled with stress and insufficient sleep. By preparing for any travel or stress with these five sleep tips, you can enjoy celebrating the holidays and sleeping well—whether you have OSA or not.