7 ways to melt holiday stress and cozy up for a better night’s sleep

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The stress of the holidays and pandemic may negatively affect your sleep. Stress influences sleep and sleep influences stress. Thankfully, there are ways to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. Along with the joy of the holiday season comes the stress — particularly this year as the pandemic takes its toll. And when stress is intense, sleep is affected.
According to The Better Sleep Council’s (BSC) The State of America’s Sleep and COVID-19 survey, fewer Americans are getting the minimum recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. In January 2020, 54 percent of those surveyed reported getting 7–8 hours, while a year earlier 60 percent reported doing so.
Based on the survey’s findings, American’s stress levels increased, more Americans feel financially strapped, and fewer use coping mechanisms to deal with stress. “Sleep and stress both influence our health and well-being,” Terry Cralle, registered nurse and sleep expert at BSC, told Healthline. Cralle said the more stressed you are, the harder it is to sleep, and the harder it is to sleep, the less sleep you get. Furthermore, the less sleep you get, the more stressed you become, creating a vicious cycle.
“Before you know it, things have spiraled out of control. At this point, some people will self-medicate — coffee or energy drinks throughout the day, perhaps a nightcap or two before bed — only making the cycle worse,” said Cralle. Dr. Daniel A. Barone, associate medical director at Weill Cornell Center for Sleep Medicine and author of “Let’s Talk About Sleep,” agreed.
He said stress affects sleep by either causing difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or leading to sleep that isn’t restorative. “One of the biggest things I see in my patients is early morning awakenings, which can be due to something physical like sleep apnea, but also something in the stress ‘world’ like mild clinical depression,” Barone told Healthline.
Because of the stress of the pandemic and the fact that it gets darker earlier, he anticipates people experiencing sleep problems this holiday season. The good news? It is possible to manage stress by managing sleep and vice versa.
1. Check your mattress Optimizing your sleep environment is the first step in achieving optimal sleep health, said Cralle. “The mattress is literally the ‘vehicle for sleep’ and should be relaxing and comfortable. Bedding should be comfortable and temperature appropriate. The sleep environment should be as dark and quiet as possible,” she said. If your mattress has lumps, bumps, or valleys, or is at least 7 years old and causing you aches and pains, Cralle said it might be time to consider investing in a new one.

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