For the most part, the holidays are great. Good food, good friends, and a lot of fun that isn’t found in the rest of the year. Sometimes though, our health can suffer. We eat poorly, don’t exercise as much, and generally don’t take care of ourselves like we should. Sleep is no exception to that. On top of having a ton of stuff to do, oftentimes we are sleeping in less than ideal situations (on a plane, on an air mattress, in a hotel). This has become such a reality that according to a recent survey, 52% of Americans invented excuses so they wouldn’t have to stay overnight at a friend or relative’s house. So what can you do when insomnia is getting to become yet another family holiday tradition? We compiled a list of tips and tricks to get you the good sleep you so desperately crave so insomnia can be a thing of the past.
Sleeping Starts Early, Pre-Gaming is Key
While you might not be able to avoid sleeping on a creaky sofa bed for a few nights while at your relatives house, you can minimize the effects of that lost sleep by sleeping a little more for the days leading up to it. That’s a tip that sleep scientists call “sleep banking”.
“Get an extra 30 to 60 minutes for the two to three nights before you go to your relatives,” says Dr. Jeff Durmer, a neurologist. “It’s called sleep banking, and it’s basically pre-gaming for sleep deprivation. The army does it before combat. You will deal with the deprivation better and reduce the anxiety around it.”
While this can work in short doses, it isn’t recommended for long periods of time. That being said, it can be just the trick for a long holiday weekend.
Strengthen Your Core
Maybe the worst part about waking up on an inflatable mattress is how your back feels after you get up. Many of us creak and groan, making mornings feel like a chore, instead of the fun, holiday filled experience that we hope for. Those back pains can be alleviated by doing some classic yoga poses — or planking.
“One of the best stretches to do as soon as you wake up is cat/cow as it loosens everything up. Do it 10 times to wake up the body,” says Carla Fischer, a spine surgeon at NYU Langone. She also recommends a plank to build up those muscles in the lower back. “Plank pose is great because it engages so many muscles. The stronger your core muscles, the less likely you are to injure them.”
Add Some Pads to the Mattress
While the mattresses might not be the best at your in laws, there are ways that you can make sleeping in a bad bed more bearable. One way is to jerry-rig your own sleeping haven with extra blankets or pillows.
“Sofa beds are constantly compressed when not in use so they’ll lose any thickness they had to begin with,” says Fischer. Instead, she recommends piling on spare comforters, blankets, quilts and anything else you can underneath you, so that you can thicken the mattress padding. It could make all the difference and lead to an even, healthy sleep.
These are just some of the tricks we’ve come up with, so stay tuned for part II of this series, where we’ll tackle some other ways that you can make sure you’re still getting your best holiday sleep.