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Managing Holiday Stress Why Sleep Is Key


By Todd Gray, DDS, Koala Center for Sleep Disorders

While the holidays can be filled with happy memories and adventures, they can also create stress and anxiety. Often, families are traveling long distances, packed into tight and unfamiliar quarters, and short on personal time. These stresses are compounded by the desire many have to make the holidays a “perfect” and memorable time for all. It’s no wonder we often feel anxious and stressed trying to make these high expectations a reality. The good news is that holiday stress can be managed through a variety of methods designed to maintain routine and promote rest and relaxation.

The journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life published a study in 2010 that found most people were frustrated and stressed after a vacation. How could this be? After all, vacations are meant to give us a break from everyday challenges. What these researchers found was that there was no gain in happiness for those who experienced moderate or high travel-related stress. This stress is often due to poor planning, being in an unfamiliar place, and dealing with trip details. When vacations are low-stress, however, they can make us happier and more relaxed. The same can be said for the holidays.

There are a number of steps we can take to reduce holiday stress and anxiety and promote rest and happiness. When families get together, it is important that each person gets some personal space. If staying in a separate home or hotel is not an option and everyone is under one roof, take some time outside during the day to go for a brisk walk or jog alone. The exercise and fresh air will help alleviate stress as well as promote better sleep. In addition, when making travel plans, consider how those plans will affect your routine. While taking a red-eye might seem like a great idea based on the price alone, you could feel differently when your children are screaming and refusing to sleep on the plane. You might even regret the trip altogether.

Sleep is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to reduce holiday stress. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests keeping your normal sleep routine as much as possible. Also, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and heavy foods — especially in the hours just before bedtime — can promote better rest. While sleeping in new beds and cramped quarters can be uncomfortable, try to make the space as familiar as possible. Bring your own pillow, blanket, or aromatherapy scents. If you are still having trouble sleeping, try breathing exercises or relaxation techniques. It is so important to make quality sleep a priority during the holidays because, as the NSF notes, if left unchecked, the anxiety and insomnia can continue beyond the holidays and lead to long-term sleep problems.

These long-term sleep problems are no laughing matter. In fact, the American Sleep Association notes that 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from a sleep disorder. The risks of poor sleep extend beyond fatigue and can lead to poor performance at work or school and a laundry list of health problems.

The Koala Center for Sleep Disorders has made quality sleep a priority by addressing one of the most common sleep ailments: obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Gray has received extensive training and has treated hundreds of OSA sufferers with a comfortable oral appliance. For more information on treating obstructive sleep apnea, contact Dr. Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders located at 2309 E. Empire St. Suite 500, Bloomington, IL. Call 309-319-6568 or visit to schedule an appointment.