Holidays are busy for everyone. Shopping, giftwrapping, snow shoveling, and cooking holiday meals are just some of the seasonal activities that add to daily stress and duties, while digging in to take from your sleep schedule. This year even comes with a new set of worries that may be keeping you up at night, such as being unable to celebrate as usual with a holiday party or by visiting loved ones.
Holiday breaks throw off kids’ sleep schedules too, adding to the stress parents deal with. Stress is known to impact sleep, and when your sleep suffers, so can your health. According to a 2019 survey, during the holidays 64 percent of people sleep less than the recommended 8 hours, and 32 percent of that group only sleep 3-5 hours a night. These seven tips could help you get the sleep you need to beat the challenges this season brings, and to start the new year off well-rested.
Take Time for Yourself to Minimize Stress
The holidays are known as a time of doing for others, and during this time many neglect their own needs. Around the Holiday season, about 62 percent of people describe their stress level as elevated according to a Healthline study. Overbooked schedules, social interactions, and overspending are just a few major stressors. Stress hormones can block your body’s signals for sleep. Plan some opportunities for relaxing activities this holiday season. Taking a warm bath, reading a good book, or taking a stroll to see the Holiday displays are a few ways to unwind after a long day.
Plan Out a Budget
To avoid stress caused by the financial burden of the holidays, and ultimately improve your sleep in the process, plan out a budget as well. How much extra money do you have for gifts this season? How about for food, decorations, and holiday activities? If you find you cannot afford to get everyone on your list a gift, the best financial tip for the holidays is one from personal experience: Pollyannas, Secret Santas, and White Elephants are the wallets best friend during the holidays. While this may not be possible for gifting to younger kids depending on family dynamic and tradition, friend groups and older family members you exchange with will appreciate the financial relief just as much as you will. Come up with a gift price that works for everyone, and rather than getting many gifts, you can pick out a few thoughtful gifts for your various social groups, and at an affordable price.
Maintain A Healthy (Sleep) Schedule
Avoid Heavy Evening Meals
Holiday dinners are a tradition practiced by many families, and often these dinners are larger than average nights, with several courses, richer comfort foods, and going back for seconds. It turns out these holiday dinner get togethers are impacting more than your diet, they affect your sleep. Heavier meals lead to tossing and turning at night with restless sleep. To mitigate the impact, wait three hours between eating and bedtime, and eat smaller portions. Avoid foods with caffeine like coffee and chocolate, cruciferous vegetables that take longer to digest, red meat, tomato and acidic foods that cause heart burn and indigestion, as well as cured meats and cheeses that have components to make you more alert.
Avoid Excessive Drinking and Alcohol Before Bed
Many believe the myth that a “night cap” before bed can help you sleep. This may be why wine is often associated with winding down holiday parties. Adding spiced rum to eggnog or toasting champagne on the new year permeate holiday tradition. A poll of 2,000 Americans about their drinking habits from the fourth Thursday of November until January 1, conducted by Morning Recovery, found that Alcohol consumption doubles over the holidays compared to any other time of year. While Alcohol is a depressant, therefore slowing your brain activity and leading to drowsiness that helps you fall asleep, the effect on brain activity can harm the quality of sleep you get and may leave you tired after waking. Try to limit drinking alcohol this season, especially close to bedtime.
Exercise in the Late Afternoon
Among combatting holiday weight gain, exercise has several benefits during the holiday season. Exercise is a good way to combat holiday stress and seasonal depression by releasing hormones, specifically endorphins and serotonin, that improve mood. For those with insomnia, studies suggest regular exercise can help mitigate the symptoms because it can help people fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer. Aerobic exercise specifically is best for helping you sleep for several reasons: the stress reducing effects help quiet worries and racing thoughts that can keep you awake, core body temperature drops after exercise and resembles the temperature drop before falling asleep, and the increase in serotonin also regulates sleep-wake cycles. Trying to sleep too soon before bedtime may make sleep difficult, because adrenaline keeps your brain alert. At least a half an hour of winddown allows the adrenaline effects to wear off, while still providing the sleep-inducing benefits. If you can fit exercise into your holiday schedule, exercising a half hour to an hour before bedtime is the best time to help you wind down and get more rest.
Turn Off Electronics Before Bed (Yes, Even the Christmas Lights)
Our final tip is, during the half hour to hour of winddown you make room for in your busy holiday schedule, unplugging from electronics may help you fall asleep and naturally improve your sleep schedule. Instead of watching movies or using your phone, try some calming activities that do not emit as much light, like wrapping presents. Light exposure too close to bedtime can negatively impact your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s ability to sense light and determine when to sleep or wake up. Being exposed to too much light when trying to sleep can block the body from signaling a sleep response. Even lights put up for decoration could keep you up if they light your bedroom. If you struggle to sleep near the holidays, fight the urge to do some late night online shopping, and instead take the time before bed for yourself to relax with a low-energy activity and unwind from this high-energy season.
While the majority of people seem to sleep less around the holidays, losing sleep can add up to seriously harm your health. Lack of sleep has been associated with increased risk for chronic disease like diabetes and cardiac disease. If you regularly experience sleep disorder symptoms including difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and/or pauses in breathing, you should talk to a doctor about your symptoms as they may point to chronic sleep disorders such as Insomnia or Sleep Apnea. Advantage Sleep Centers can run diagnostics and support clients throughout treatment. If you would like more information on our services, or would like to get in touch with us to schedule a sleep study, you can find our services and contact pages linked below. This holiday season and into the new year, make the resolution to focus on your sleep health, because sleep impacts not only the quality of your life, but also your physical health.