Holiday stress can throw you off your sleep game…
There’s a lot that gets packed into the holidays: visiting friends, buying gifts, hanging stockings for Santa to fill, prepping dinner and hosting family gatherings. Will your sleep suffer? Perhaps.
But your sleep doesn’t need to be the sacrificial lamb of the holidays. Just a few modifications of your annual traditions will ensure you get the rest you need to fully enjoy the season.
With your sleep health top of mind, we offer some expert advice on easy ways you can enjoy the happiest, most restful, holidays ever.
How to manage holiday stress in 7 simple steps
1. Shift the time for opening presents on Christmas morning. Chances are, your kids are super-excited to wake up and starting ripping open their gifts from Santa, so much so that you might get tapped on the shoulder as early as 5 am. For young children, shifting bedtime a bit later on Christmas Eve will allow everyone to sleep longer on Christmas morning. For older kids, consider allowing them to open one gift in their bed when they wake up. Make it something they can use or play with in their bed while you snooze – and agree to a wake-up time for the rest of the family.
2. Pre-set go-home times when visiting friends and family. Though it’s always parts of the holidays, you’ll pay dearly for overindulging in alcohol and unhealthy food while underindulging in sleep. According to Kimberly Lackey, an integrative health coach with Empath Coaching, the more consistent you can be with your sleep patterns the healthier and happier you’ll be throughout the holiday season. “Setting boundaries with friends and family and taking care of yourself are very important life skills,” she says. “Use this time of year to give yourself the gift of selfcare.”
3. Don’t skip the party though! At the other end of the spectrum, you might be tempted to unplug and forego family gatherings because they’re too much bother or stressful. Before you RSVP no, consider this. Spending time socializing and exchanging gifts can boost the oxytocin levels, a chemical that blocks the body’s main stress chemical. Those lower levels of stress mean you’ll be sleeping well and dreaming perhaps of a white Christmas and sugar plums.
4. Eat, drink and be merry–within reason. Our good eating habits tend to fall by the wayside when the holidays roll around. A little indulgence is normal, but moderation is key, especially when it comes to alcohol. While alcohol might make you feel merry, it will impair the quality of your sleep and you’ll miss out on deep restorative rest. And remember that a late-in-the-day cup of coffee or post-dinner espresso is equally dangerous. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that will impair your brain’s ability to shift down for the night. You’ll also want to avoid going to bed on with a full belly, lest you risk indigestion or heartburn. Cut off your snacking two or three hours before you head to bed.
5. Be prepared for sugar-pushers and have an alternative choice ready. Indulging in sugary treats. Pumpkin pie, cookies and boxes of chocolates, tempting you to nibble when you’re not really hungry, can cause an energy crash, leaving you longing for a nap. Avoid those drastic energy dips by limiting your intake of sugar throughout the day. Keep your blood sugar levels balanced by swapping in some healthier snack choices, like strawberries with a bit of chocolate or a low fat and low carb meringue for dessert.
6. Shift your binge watching holiday TV specials and movies. Timing is key. You can still watch your Christmas movie favorites, but watch it earlier in the evening or on Saturday afternoon instead. Too much TV before bed can disturb your sleep. Blue light emitted from televisions and electronics send the wrong signal to your brain, saying, “Wake up!” instead of “It’s time to sleep.” Lackey suggests a wind-down period between when the TV shuts off and your bedtime. “Establish a relaxation habit such as listening to calming music, meditation or writing in a journal before bedtime.”
7. Shop earlier in the day–remember, no electronics in the bedroom. With gifts to buy and meals to plan for, you’ll find yourself shopping many times before, during and after the holidays, not to mention the temptations of Black Friday sales and midnight madness promotions. For many people–whether it’s shopping online or in a store, there’s a serious adrenalin rush that can happen. You’ll want to tread carefully and avoid late-night sprees, which will make you feel more alert and awake or interfere with your relaxation before bedtime. Plan to make your purchases earlier in the day.