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All YOU need to know about Sleep for the holidays

holidays sleep wellbeing Dec 13, 2020

The holidays is the perfect time to focus on getting your sleep routine back on track. Depending on how much your sleep is disrupted it could take up to a week for your body to settle into its natural sleep routine.


Sleep occurs as a result of three interconnected processes occurring simultaneously; the opportunity for sleep, the ability to sleep and the need for sleep. When these three processes don’t overlap, we start to experience problems with our sleep. Sure, it’s normal to experience a couple of bad night’s sleep however it is important to take note of it as for some people a bad night’s sleep can become a learned habit which will then need to be unlearned at a later stage. No matter your situation, age or life stage these three processes need to intersect in order to experience restorative sleep.  


Opportunity for sleep

While for many this may seem obvious, i.e. we need to set aside time for sleep, it is surprising how many people don’t. In order to sleep well we need to allow sufficient wind down time (which is individual and can be up to 90minutes) and time to actually fall asleep (up to 30mins). Most of the world population (95%) needs 8 hours sleep per night. If insufficient time is put aside to sleep then we land up having not enough sleep. Equally providing too much opportunity for sleep can also hamper sleep efforts and lead to poor sleep experiences by not falling asleep as anticipated or sleeping too much.


Are you putting aside enough time to sleep? If not, how can you prioritise sleep?


Ability to sleep

Many of us are able to sleep easily, and importantly stay asleep. For people with insomnia, this is their daily challenge, falling asleep, staying asleep and waking after a healthy amount of sleep. There are many reasons why someone may experience insomnia, however the prognosis for insomnia sufferers is good. Approximately 70% of insomniacs can improve or resolve their sleep challenges with psychological interventions which have been proven to be more effective than medication in the long term.


Are you struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep? What has changed to contribute to that?


Need for Sleep

When someone finds out that I specialise in psychological approaches to sleep I am always asked “what is the ideal amount of sleep for an adult?”, and whenever I reply, “between 7 and 9 hours a night”, they scoff and share the sleep habits of someone famous who has managed to achieve on much less. Margaret Thatcher is often quoted as running the UK on as little as 4 hours a night. Yes, it may be true she survived on 4 hours sleep a night however the health of impacts of that meant her later years were spent suffering dementia and dying ultimately of a stroke. Both known impacts of sustained sleep deprivation. If that is how you would like to live out your later years, go for it! Sleep deprivation contributes to 67% of diseases globally. It is a known contributor to cardiovascular disease (15%), cancer (19%), mental health (12%), musculoskeletal (12%) and injuries (9%). 


Are you sleeping between 7 and 9 hours a night? if not, what is your average hours of sleep across the week and do you average between 7 and 9 hours?


If you are struggling to sleep well or wake feeling refreshed, then you need to start to make some changes so that you can sleep well again. If you have struggled to sleep well for less than three months, it’s likely that effective time and stress management strategies will be all you need.


However, if your sleep has been disrupted for longer the habitual patterns that have developed will need unlearning. Time and stress management strategies will still be needed; however, you will need additional support to investigate your sleep ability.

While medication will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep it will rob you of achieving deep restorative sleep (REM) which is what you need for good health, and why sleep medication is an interim solution not THE solution.


6 Ways to start to get your sleep back on track

1. Commit to waking up at the same time every morning. You may want to use an alarm at first. As you become well rested your body will wake at that time naturally. If you need more sleep, plan to go to sleep earlier rather than sleep later

2. Hydrate your body well during the day with water  

3. Cut down on your stimulant and sugar intake i.e. caffeine, lollies etc.

4. Limit your daily alcohol intake

5. Exercise during the day, 30 minutes of energetic walking will be enough

6. Establish a night-time routine that supports sleep


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