This post is written in partnership with Philips
Combine the season’s many high-stress tasks (finding perfect gifts, hosting parties, roasting large birds) with jet lag and long nights spent in strange hotels or pull-out sofas, then multiply by a heap of family drama, and it’s easy to see how getting enough restorative sleep this time of year just doesn’t add up.
That’s a problem, and not just because you don’t want to be falling asleep in your egg-nog while everyone else is rocking around the Christmas tree. Sleep-deprived people are often more irritable (duh), which can lead to situations like…blowing up at your sister’s husband over politics at the dinner table. They also report feeling more sadness, and lack of sleep is associated with depression, which won’t help you deal with the already emotional time of year. Finally, research shows that inadequate sleep can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to the sneeze your airplane seat-mate just showered you with.
The good news is, if you can head off this whole sleep-well scenario in advance, research shows that when you do face stress, you’ll likely be able to stay positive and manage it better.
With that in mind, I decided not to go through the busy/stressful holiday season vulnerable to the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. I am determined to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. So far, I’m consistently hitting the mark, and (please don’t let this be a jinx!) I haven’t gotten sick, I’m feeling cheerful, and I haven’t come to blows with any relative (yet).
Here’s what’s working for me this year.
1. I enforced electronics rules in the bedroom…
Wellness experts often recommend that you get off your devices at least an hour or so before you hit the hay. This is because light—and especially the blue light from screens—can mess with the circadian rhythms that regulate your sleep cycle. I whole-heartedly agree with this recommendation, but I realized I needed to take it further. What good is it if you’re trying to avoid the digital glow and investing in black-out curtains and then your partner is watching Netflix on his iPad right next to you in bed? This year, I informed my loving husband that if he wanted to use any bright lights or devices after 9pm, he needed to vacate the bedroom. He was mildly annoyed, but deep down he knew it was good for his sleep patterns, too.
2. …except electronics that improve sleep!
Conversely, any device that will help me improve my sleep has an open invitation to my bedroom. I just started using Philips SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband, and the experience has been fascinating. Unlike trackers that just tell you how you’re sleeping (so you can agonize over how many times you woke up during the night?!), the headband itself actually uses super smart technology to improve the quality of your sleep. Essentially, its sensor can tell when your brain enters the important phase of sleep called deep or “slow wave” sleep. Once you do, it boosts those slow waves using quiet audio tones. In other words, it supercharges your deep sleep, which makes you feel more refreshed and energized the next day.
I’ve been wearing the Deep Sleep headband for the better part of a week now, and it’s been an interesting experience. At first glance you’ll notice it’s big… it straps over your ears (so you can hear the audio tones) and across your forehead in two places. If you’ve got long hair (*raises hand*) it takes a minute to get it situated. Once it’s on, however, it’s quite comfortable, and it comes in two different sizes to ensure it fits you just right. It’s also completely wireless, so once it’s paired to your phone, you can put your little screen away for the night. In the morning, the headband syncs to your phone and you get your readout— how much sleep you got, and how the headband helped you to optimize it. The data actually feels helpful and encouraging, and I have noticed that I’m consistently getting more sleep when I wear it, too. A nice side effect.
SmartSleep Deep Sleep HeadbandPhilips$399Shop Now
3. I packed a sleep-enhancing travel kit
When you’re on the road, things get even trickier, so in addition to packing my SmartSleep Deep Sleep headband, I brought a few low-tech tools with me when I travelled. An eye mask is essential for sleeping on planes and in new places where you can’t predict the blinds situation. Plant potions are pretty magical when it comes to sleep, too. Think aromatherapy: I rub a some of this magical oil between my toes (proven to improve sleep!), and spray this mist on my pillow.
Also in my kit: Chamomile tea (known for inducing relaxation), a sleep mask (for keeping the morning sun from messing with my jet lag recalibration) and a white noise machine (this is my current favorite). Also, the science on taking melatonin to improve sleep is also very sound, particularly related to reducing jet lag, so it gets tossed in the kit too.
4. I upgraded my “away” bedroom.
True story: One totally transformative thing I did for the first time this year is ordered a new mattress and pillows… for my husband’s childhood room. Yes, it was a splurge, but it was also a solid investment in years of better holiday sleep in the future. I was tired of falling out of the creaky bed and tossing and turning every time we stayed there. Plus, we might even spend more quality time with family as a result, since staying an extra night or two won’t involve a trip to the chiropractor upon return.
If a brand-new sleep set-up isn’t an option where you’re going, consider packing a few less things in the ol’ suitcase so you have room for your favorite pillow, or blanket. Anything that feels like home is bound to help you feel more comfortable.
5. I established nighttime rituals
Calming practices you can do before bed can really take the edge off a stressful day and get you into a headspace that’s more prepared for sleep. At home, that could mean something like an epsom salt bath. But practices like sipping herbal tea (see above) or nightly meditation can be done anywhere. While most people meditate first thing in the morning, saving your session for the evening is a really great strategy if you have trouble getting to sleep and you have busy, hectic mornings getting out of the house. Whatever your usual practice is will slow your brain down before bed, or you can choose a practice focused on prepping your body for slumber; all of the top meditation apps have them.