The holidays give us a lot to look forward to – time off from work, quality time with family, parties, presents. Unfortunately, all of those holiday highlights often come at the expense of a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re running around trying to check off everything on your shopping list or dancing the night away at your fourth party this week, the holiday season doesn’t leave much time for recharging. Read on to see five ways that the holidays are throwing off your sleep schedule, and how you can get yourself back on track.
Traveling at any time of year is stressful, but when it comes to the holidays, you’re in for an extra dose of anxiety. Not only does the hassle of pre-travel packing likely deprive you of a good night’s rest even before you start your trip, but the stress of dealing with overcrowded airports and planes tends to be just as grueling. Throw a little jet lag on top of that, and you’ve got the perfect storm of stressors to throw sleep off before, during, and after your trip.
To help you doze off once you’ve arrived at your holiday destination, try a simple trick like taking a warm bath before bedtime. This will soothe tired muscles, help you relax after a long journey, and the shift in body temperature after you get out of the bath might promote sleepiness.
The holidays aren’t exactly known for calorie-conscious dinner spreads, and while we are always painfully aware of what digging in will do to our figures – nothing, right, because holiday calories don’t count? – we don’t really think about the effects that the eating can have on our sleep.
For starters, foods high in sugar, i.e. most holiday favorites, are likely to keep you awake. To make matters worse, eating too much in the evening might mean that our bodies spend a huge chunk of the night actively breaking down our holiday dinner instead of recharging like they need to. To avoid the problem, try to stop eating several hours before bedtime so that your body is done digesting by the time you hit the sack.
Skipping the Gym
Getting to the gym tends to be hard enough on a regular basis, so when the holidays come around, it’s easy for fitness to take a backseat. Not only does that end up hurting our physical health, but it hurts our sleep too, since exercise is a natural stress reducer and has been linked to better rest.
The trick to keeping up with your fitness during the holidays is trying to work it in however you can, even if that doesn’t mean getting on a treadmill or hitting the weight room. Instead try to take part in more traditional holiday activities that can double as a workout, like playing football or ice skating. It doesn’t have to be your most intense workout, as long as it gets you moving until you’re back to your usual routine.
If there’s a holiday celebration going down, it’s safe to assume there will be some booze in the mix. And while the holidays should be about unwinding, socializing, and yes, getting a little (or very) buzzed, having a few sips too many can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle.
Initially, drinking a lot of alcohol is likely to have you feeling tired, and may even help you fall asleep, but the real problem comes in when your body starts metabolizing the alcohol. The process ends up disrupting your sleep instead of aiding it, and may either cause you to wake up or lead to poor sleep quality. To solve the problem, try to drink in moderation, and if you can, avoid alcohol within several hours of sleeping.
No work during the holidays means no need to set a morning alarm, which is perfect since holiday parties are likely to have you celebrating long into the night (or, early into the morning).
The problem is that while you may not have a work schedule to answer to, deviating too much from your natural sleep schedule can be an issue, especially when it comes to trying to get back to your usual routine after the holidays have come and gone. The key to enjoying the holidays without getting too far off track with your sleep is to limit how late you stay up. If you usually try to be in bed by 10 p.m., try not to go much later than 12 or 1 a.m. You might not feel like the life of the party, but your body will thank you for it.