The holiday season can be a challenging time. Between awkward family gatherings, after-hours office parties, last-minute visits to the mall, and traffic-ridden road trips to your in-laws’, there are a lot of reasons to be anxious, keep weird hours, or eat the wrong thing over the holidays. To make matters worse, all of these holiday distractions might interfere with your sleep. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, you need high-quality restorative sleep to function well, feel good, and look beautiful. That’s why I’m asking you to prioritize your sleep, and kick off the New Year as your healthiest self! Here’s my guide to maintaining your sleep health over the winter festivities:
Try to maintain the same early bedtime throughout the holidays.
Even if you don’t need to wake up early to go to work over the holidays, stick to approximately the same bedtime that you adhere to during the week. Sure, there might be an exciting family poker game or an office party that you feel obliged to attend, but you can start early and leave early. If you need to catch up on some long overdue sleep, feel free to sleep in a little bit, but don’t overdo it. Sleeping in might interfere with your ability to fall asleep the next night.
Watch the heavy foods, especially in the evening.
In the colder winter months, it’s tempting to consume larger portions of more caloric food. This is especially true over the holidays when a lot of family gatherings focus on large meals and abundant desserts. However, eating heavy fatty foods in the evening can interfere with your body’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even if your stuffed belly won’t be noticeable under your oversized sweater, you should be concerned about what you eat so you can maximize your high-quality sleep and feel great. Plan in advance to only allow yourself reasonable portion sizes and to limit going back for seconds.
Alcohol will also affect your sleep.
With all your in-laws invading your space, you may want to drink a little to take the edge off; however, while alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, you won’t sleep nearly as well. In addition, you may wake up feeling really crappy. To avoid the potentially prolonged effects of drinking too much, limit yourself to one or two drinks. (And please, never drive home drunk, even if you live right down the street.)
Don’t forget to exercise.
Getting outside, especially in the morning where you can get natural light, will help keep your internal clock in check. Exercising also helps you feel less sleepy during the day. It’s something you can do alone or with someone if you want a little time away from the chaos of the family activities.
Spend time with people you love.
Surrounding yourself with people that you care about can help you laugh, share, reminisce, and relax. While it can be stressful hanging out with many of your relatives all at once, make sure you get quality time in with the people who make you feel happy. Having strong and healthy relationships will help you sleep better at night.
If you need a nap, take one!
There are likely going to be some nights over the holidays where you either stayed out too late or were up wrapping presents half the night. If you feel tired or overwhelmed by all the excitement over the holidays, it might make sense for you to sneak away in the early afternoon to find some peace and quiet. As noted in a prior post on napping, don’t nap too late in the day, or it might interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
Take time for yourself at night (away from screens).
Finally, makes sure you find time for yourself in the evenings. Whether you practice yoga, meditate, or read quietly to yourself, prepare your mind and body for the night’s rest.
So, as you ready yourself for the coming few weeks, please follow the advice above and give yourself the invaluable gift of good sleep.
Our Sleep Health expert Lauren Hale, PhD is an associate professor of Preventive Medicine and core faculty member of the program in Public Health at Stony Brook University. She specializes in the effects sleep has on mental, physical, and public health. Laurens's articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, shed light on the significance of sleep and the role it plays in personal wellbeing. Lauren presented a TEDx talk at Stony Brook University on her research agenda on the social patterning of sleep health. In 2015, she became the Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal, Sleep Health.