Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being. We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our "sleep health" remains an essential question throughout our lifespan. Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours between the sheets a priority. For many of us with sleep debt, we’ve forgotten what “being really, truly rested” feels like. To further complicate matters, stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and external lights—including those from electronic devices—interferes with our "circadian rhythm" or natural sleep/wake cycle. Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum," but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress. To get the sleep you need, you must look at the big picture. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need: Revisited The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a world-class study that took more than two years of research to complete – an update to our most-cited guidelines on how much sleep you really need at each age. You can read the research paper published in Sleep Health. Download NSF's recommended sleep times chart. Eighteen leading scientists and researchers came together to form the National Sleep Foundation’s expert panel tasked with updating the official recommendations. The panelists included six sleep specialists and representatives from leading organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Anatomists, American College of Chest Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Geriatrics Society, American Neurological Association, American Physiological Society, American Psychiatric Association, American Thoracic Society, Gerontological Society of America, Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, and Society for Research in Human Development. The panelists participated in a rigorous scientific process that included reviewing over 300 current scientific publications and voting on how much sleep is appropriate throughout the lifespan. “Millions of individuals trust the National Sleep Foundation for its sleep duration recommendations. As the voice for sleep health it is the NSF’s responsibility to make sure that our recommendations are supported by the most rigorous science,” says Charles Czeisler, MD, PhD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation and chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Individuals, particularly parents, rely on us for this information.”

Sunlight stimulates the production of serotonin, which is instrumental in obtaining a great night’s sleep. This feel-good hormone helps promote you sleeping better, so go out for a walk in between food courses soak up those rays!

Exercise!

Pretty much the key to anything healthy, especially sleep, is working out. Allowing yourself time to work out and burn some energy is especially important during the holidays. Continuing to work out is important not only because your caloric intake spikes from Thanksgiving to New Years, but also because working out will promote better sleep and relaxation throughout the holidays.

Stick to your Routine!

The Holidays can throw a wrench in your body’s circadian rhythm, if you are not careful.  Try as hard as you can to wake up and go to bed the same time. Also, eating and working out at the same time is important to keep your overall health on track

Keep your new gifts out of the bed room – especially electronics!

You got a new phone or tablet during the holidays – but please keep them for use during the day only!  Over stimulation from electronics has been linked to higher likelihood of anxiety and depression- which interferes with restful sleep.  So try to stop using these types of electronics, 3-4 hours before you plan on hitting the sack.

Stay in the moment!

Enjoy the people you are with and remember why you are with them. Whether it is seeing family you don’t see too often, or old high school friends you see once a year…soak up the moment! “Staying in the moment” and gratitude increases joy and happiness, which will also help you sleep easy.