We all know that sleep suffers during the holiday period; the late parties, breakfast with the kids and don’t forget about the parade of lunches and dinners with friends and family. We end up in a constant state of fatigue, not wanting to miss anything! Add onto this that most of us head into the festive season with sleep debt, a busy schedule and out-of-control eating and you get one seriously sleep-deprived individual.
There are three sleep-regulating processes that are the most affected:
The relationship between sleep and wakefulness
Your body has a drive to sleep, and this drive gets stronger the longer you are awake. During the holiday period it is common to spend all day celebrating with friends and family, and to have later bed times. You will find that you are exceeding or even completely disregarding your strong urge to sleep in favour of socialising.
Your circadian rhythm
As mentioned above celebratory meals and activities may push your usual bedtime out a few hours and disrupt your usual before-bed routines. Road trips may require waking much earlier than usual. These seemingly minor routine disruptions can accumulate over the course of a few days and affect your body’s natural rhythm and impair your ability to sleep fitfully.
The anticipation and anxiety around Christmas and New Years is no stranger to any adult. Even the best laid plans can go askew, and easily, and thoughts of this may keep you up all night. Maybe you’re excited about presents or to catch-up with friends and family. Any of these stimulating emotions increase alertness and can delay the onset of sleep.
Changes to any of the above processes can cause temporary sleep issues at any time of the year, but holiday season provides the perfect storm and usually combines all three with the additional sleep-inhibiting elements of food and alcohol.
There is no quick fix to remedying sleep-deprivation, but the following tips may help somewhat to staying rested while still being festive:
- Avoid going into the holiday season with sleep-debt
- Don’t over-schedule yourself
- When you lose sleep, compensate with a sleep-in or a nap in the early afternoon
- Limit alcohol consumption in the night time
- Try to maintain your normal wake and sleep times
- When anxious thoughts are keeping you up, write them down and think about possible solutions for a few minutes. Once done, put it away and deal with these issues tomorrow
Enjoy the holiday season with family, friends and have sweet dreams.