The holidays are right around the corner. While that can mean lots of cheer and merriness, it can also mean sleep deprivation and overall poor sleep quality. That can make it that much harder to go back to school or work once the festivities are over. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, free ways you can protect your sleep quality and still enjoy the upcoming holiday season.
Keep your sleep schedule consistent
Holidays are the perfect time to catch up with old friends or relatives that we haven’t seen in awhile. So, it’s incredibly tempting to stay up late to extend these visits. However, it’s important to keep your holiday sleep schedule as close to your regular one as possible — even if it means rescheduling visits.
Why? Well, two reasons. Firstly, disrupting your sleep cycle can lead to decreased sleep quality or even lost rest. Not getting enough shut-eye can mean grouchiness… and do you really want to be the family Grinch this year? Secondly, sleep disruptions during the holidays can make it harder to fall back into your regular schedule once you resume normal school and work activities. So, if you fall asleep around 9 p.m. on most days, try to stick to that routine during seasonal festivities. You’ll thank yourself once you get back to the old grind.
If you find that you have to fall asleep later or wake up earlier than usual, though, don’t worry. That’s what naps are for, after all. If you feel the need to nap, just make sure to keep it limited to 10 or 20 minutes long. Nap for longer than 30 minutes, and you risk disrupting your ability to rest at night.
Limit alcohol intake
Most people significantly increase their alcohol intake around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Now, most people know that increased caffeine intake can affect their sleep. Fewer, however, know that alcohol can also significantly impact our ability to catch those Z’s.
There’s plenty of research that shows that alcohol can disrupt the circadian rhythm, or internal sleep clock. Specifically, alcohol intake can negatively impact our ability to produce melatonin. In fact, drinking alcohol even an hour before bed may reduce melatonin production by 20%!
Melatonin importantly helps regulate our sleep cycle; less melatonin can mean difficulties falling and staying asleep. So, you can indulge in holiday cheer, but not too much. Stop drinking a few hours before bedtime. You’ll sleep easier and be able to better enjoy the rest of your holiday break when you wake up refreshed the next morning.
Avoid large meals right before bed
There’s no denying that one of the best parts of the holidays is the food and lots of it. End-of-year holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are some of the most food-heavy celebrations in the United States. A typical Thanksgiving dinner, for instance, can contain 3000 calories. In fact, it isn’t unusual for people to eat a 4,500-calorie dinner on Turkey Day!
While it’s fine to splurge every once in a while (although maybe not quite that much), it pays to be conscious about when you do so. Research shows that eating close to bedtime can negatively impact sleep quality. So, scheduling your feasts earlier in the day can give you the best of both worlds: better sleep and delicious seasonal meals.
Make room for exercise
Cooking, cleaning, catching up, running last-minute errands… The holidays are busy, busy times. Making room for exercise in all of this madness might seem impossible. Doing so, however, can give your sleep a boost. Plus, it may even help alleviate some symptoms of anxiety, which can help if you also struggle with holiday-related stress.
You don’t have to hit the gym hard, either. A simple 20-minute walk can be enough to help you calm down and reap some health benefits. However you exercise, just make sure it’s not too close to bedtime, or you might find it harder to fall asleep.
I know; easier said than done. However, there’s no denying that seasonal celebrations can come with lots of stress. There’s also no denying that stress can negatively impact sleep. That means it pays to take a step back from a hectic seasonal schedule to unwind. Whether it’s mindfulness exercises or a brisk walk around the block, de-stressing techniques can help you better enjoy the holidays and catch some Z’s, too.