The Winter Holidays and Acute Insomnia

The winter holidays can be filled with fun activities, celebrations with friends and family, and snow sports.  But holidays can also be stressful as we both maintain our regular responsibilities and prepare for the additional activities.  This year many people are also concerned about the recent economic downturn.  The combination of the holidays and economic concerns can lead to acute insomnia, the topic for today.

What is Acute Insomnia?

Acute insomnia is the inability to fall asleep within 30 minutes, or spending more than 30 minutes awake in the middle of the night.  Acute insomnia is a completely normal response to life events, and something we will all experience periodically.  It becomes chronic when it has persisted for more than a month.  Although it is normal in times of extra activity or worry, there are still habits we can put in place to help us get the sleep we need to feel good.

Healthy Sleep Habits during the Holidays

Below are several ideas to keep you sleeping well during the holidays.  Remember the effects of insufficient sleep that we’ve talked about in other posts, such as having emotional ups and downs, difficulty concentrating, poor manual dexterity, and fatigue.  Getting enough sleep allows us to really enjoy this season more fully.

– Plan a little time (20 to 40 minutes) to wind down before you get into bed.  This will allow you to fall asleep more quickly.  Spend this time doing something you enjoy that does not involve bright light like TV or computers.

– If your thoughts start to spin once you get into bed, start the habit of journaling.  The goal here is to put your thoughts to bed before you put yourself to bed.  Spend 10-15 minutes (no more) every day putting those thoughts down on paper a couple hours before bedtime.  Then if they arise during the night, tell yourself gently but firmly “I’ve thought about that already, and I’ll have time to think about that tomorrow.  Now is the time to rest.”  Although this sounds simple, it is amazingly effective.

– If you are going to stay up late for a party, plan to start the following day a little later, or slower.  Another option is to take an afternoon nap before your late night.  Don’t take a nap if you will be going to bed at your regular time, as it will make it more difficult to fall asleep.

– If there are regular tasks you do that can be suspended or rescheduled until after your holiday plans, consider doing it.  This will help preserve the time you need for sleep.

– Remember that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, so plan accordingly.

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