How to sleep well this festive season
Are you starting to feel the festive season frazzle? What should be a time of celebration, happiness and gratitude, in 2020, Christmas is feeling a little more stressful than usual. This heightened stress you’re feeling is likely intertwined with anxiety and less-than-healthy coping mechanisms that, you guessed, are taking a toll on your sleep.
Prioritising rest during this time is vital in seeing in the new (and improved, fingers crossed) year feeling rejuvenated. Let’s take a look at ways you can incorporate sleep into your festive season survival kit to make it through to the other side with a fresh face.
How the festive period messes with your sleep
Did you know that Christmas season stress is the largest cause of sleeplessness during the year? The pressure that’s felt during the festive season is universal and unfortunately lasts well into our sleeping hours.
But poor sleep over Christmastime is not only about the final yearly wrap-up – ticking off those to-dos, accomplishing that one last hoorah, and maintaining a level of sanity before clocking off for a much-needed rest. Festive season fatigue can also be caused by routine changes, one-too-many mince pies, an expensive Father Christmas wishlist… and more.
Are you taking on too much?
From finding gifts for family, getting them couriered off in time, Cyber Monday sales and last-minute work presentations (not forgetting the “International Day of Sleep Peprivation’, New Year), there’s a lot on your plate. No wonder you’re skimming on sleep.
Could festive season anxiety be to blame?
When there’s not enough time to accomplish important tasks at work, things can quickly go wrong. This additional pressure to perform can cause delays in falling asleep. As your mind is constantly focused on what needs to be done and what’s not going right, this mounting mental pressure is a sleep disaster waiting to happen.
Is the pandemic playing havoc with your subconscious?
It’s quite clear that this festive season is going to be a little different to what we’re used to. Not only are there worries of families not being together over the holidays but scheduled escapes being cancelled due to travel bans and having to do all our shopping online. This can have weird effects on our dreams, causing nightmares, and the heightened stress we’re already feeling could bring on insomnia patterns.
Are you overindulging in the festive fun?
When we feel tired, we tend to forget the healthy habits that keep us energised. During the festive season, you’re more likely to skip that exercise session, eat on-the-run and shave off sleep hours.
It’s not uncommon to throw caution to the wind and let the food and alcohol comfort the soul over this time. However, overindulging in Christmas treats can cause indigestion and disrupted sleep, which can lead to insomnia and throw your body clock out of whack. (Plus, there’s the risk of being hungover which, we’re sure you know, is a recipe for poor quality sleep).
The dos and don’ts to achieve a good night’s sleep this festive season
If you’re adamant about keeping a clear head to get ahead of the end-of-year rush, then follow these tips to ensure that when you switch off for the night, your mind does too.
Do: Plan ahead of the holidays
We all have a habit of leaving important tasks to the last minute. While procrastination is tempting, before you know it, you will have a daunting list of things to do. Trying to ‘do it all’ leads to unwanted stress that can come back and haunt you, especially in your sleep.
To avoid this type of stress and impending sleep deprivation, make a list of things that you need to do and add them to your calendar day by day. If you start tackling tasks early (and every day), you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free Christmas (and better sleep).
Don’t: Take on too much
Taking on too much can lead to feeling overwhelmed and diminish the holiday spirit (which is the core reason that makes this time so special). Learn how to outsource. If you have access to family members and close friends that can assist with getting things done, rope them in!
When it comes to gifts, don’t make your life difficult by leaving it all to the last minute either. Create a list, and start collecting or even combine presents with other family members to help take off the load.
Stress leads to sleep deprivation, and we’re pretty sure you want to be fully alert when Christmas day rolls around to enjoy the holiday spirit you’ve worked so hard to create.
Do: Keep a regular sleep schedule
It’s easy to cut back on the one thing that’s keeping you away from enjoying this festive time, sleep. But we’re pretty sure you want to spend every moment of the holidays (even indoors) bright-eyed with reindeer tails, so it goes without saying, keep your sleep schedule regular.
Even during this pandemic, staying awake longer, Zoom calling loved ones, prepping for end-of-year targets or just enjoying the feeling of another year ending (bye, 2020) can affect our sleeping patterns and in turn, affect our moods.
We’ll admit, it may be acceptable to stay up a little later here and there, but making it a frequent habit can lead to mood and behaviour changes. Catching up on sleep debt is fine but if you don’t want your family seeing you turn into a grumpy old Scrooge keep that sleep hygiene routine on point to ensure you’re getting quality sleep.
Don’t: Skip the treadmill
Did you know that sticking to an exercise regime is one of the greatest promoters of good, quality sleep? We know that during the holidays, our exercise habits suffer, but putting off your fitness journey until it becomes a New Year’s resolution is not a great idea, especially for your sleep.
Exercise is not only great for the body, but the mind as well, and it goes a long way towards helping you keep your head clear of all your holiday stress. Make an effort to include a quick workout every day, even if it’s a small jog to the local grocery store. Your sleep quality will thank you for it.
Do: Skip the snacks (at night)
You’re probably hating us right now. But late-night snacks? Keep them for Father Christmas. We know that this one may be hard to stick to, after all, the best part of the silly season is all of the delicious calorific food. But try your best to consume these treats in moderation and avoid sleep-stealing foods to keep sleep disturbances at bay.
While we want you to have a merry time, you need to get a good rest too. Stick to eating a couple of hours before bed to let your digestive system finish its job, so that when you go to sleep, your body can focus on refreshing you for the next day.
Don’t: Drink yourself merry
Along with the food comes the ease of getting on the merry train. While alcohol can make you tired and feel like you can fall asleep faster, it also disrupts your sleep and diminishes the quality of your sleep later in the night.
Alcohol creates an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. This means that it slowly decreases your overall sleep quality, which results in shorter sleep durations with more sleep disruptions.
What’s more, alcohol can make you snore louder than an abominable snow monster and disrupt your bed partner’s sleep. So for the sake of rest, drink in moderation and try to avoid drinking altogether close to bedtime.
Do: Power down before bedtime
It goes without saying that to prompt sleep, one must power down. Creating a sleep hygiene routine that helps trigger your body for bedtime is vital in keeping you sane around this time of year.
If you have a full household that’s wired on festive excitement, you may want to try adjusting the usual bedtime routine to incorporate family activities together. Reading bedtime stories and playing (non-competitive) board games are great ways to encourage togetherness and remind you of this special part of the year.
When you feel good, you start to relax, and that is an excellent recipe for sleep.
Do: Turn off the electronics (Christmas lights too) before bedtime
We know, Love Actually, The Grinch and Home Alone re-runs are what make this time of the year feel like Christmas. Even though they may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, watching TV before bed can hurt your sleep.
Any electronic devices that emit a light similar to that of daylight trick our brains into staying awake. Melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, stops producing its sleep medicine and can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
So swap out the TV classic for a sleep story and enjoy listening to the warm fuzzy feelings that can (actually) lull you to sleep.
Do: Get some fresh air
Spending time outdoors and taking part in winter activities might be a little more difficult this year. (Thanks 2020.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t get outdoors at all. As the winter days are short, and light is limited (and because it’s so easy to stay wrapped up all day on the couch), keeping your circadian rhythm in sync might need a little help from the light outside.
Your circadian rhythm is aligned to the natural cycles of daylight and darkness, which helps regulate your internal clock and tells you when it’s time for z’s. Another reason to get outside as much as you can is to avoid seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This sleep disorder is linked to the lack of exposure to daylight, so if you want to kick those winter blues during the most joyous time of the year, get outside.
10 Tips to help excited children sleep on Christmas Eve
We know it, you know it. (Because we’ll admit we suffer from it too.) Getting your child to sleep on Christmas Eve is probably the most challenging night of the year. The cookies are out, the milk topped up, and all that’s left is the clippity-clop of reindeer hooves on the roof. But getting your child to sleep so you can don the Father Christmas suit is no small feat…
While your secret is safe with us, we’ve put together a few tips to get your kids to sleep:
- Early rise on Christmas Eve. You want your kids to be genuinely tired when they go to bed, right? Start their day off on December 24 nice and early so by the time its bedtime, they’re ready for bed.
- Limit the daytime nap. If you’re a parent, you will know that a 5-minute nap is enough to keep your child up at night. To keep them awake, keep them engaged in activities that will help tire them out later.
- Give them something to do, but keep the excitement low. Whatever you do, avoid making your child over-excited. Keep the merry tunes away from bedtime and take part in relaxing (but fun) activities during the day.
- Hide or switch-off electronic devices. By not watching TV or playing games right before bed, they won’t be so ‘wired’ and will find it easier to get to sleep.
- Encourage a warm bath before bed. This will help them relax and assist them in settling down. Sticking with your usual bathtime routine will help convince them that it’s just a typical day.
- Give them something to open on Christmas Eve. This may be an excellent way to prevent over-excitement and take their mind off what they might be unwrapping the next day.
- Let them know when it’s bedtime. By giving them a heads up for bedtime helps them prepare for sleep. (Stick to your guns.)
- Prepare them for the morning. Make a deal with them before they go to bed as to what time they are allowed to get up and open presents.
- Keep your child in bed. Even if they wake up and wander to you after they’ve been put to bed, be sure to keep putting them down again. If your child is having trouble sleeping, you can try lying down with them for a while to help them relax.
- And finally. Remind them that Father Christmas only comes when they’re asleep.
We hope this survival kit for Christmas helps you steer clear of stressful thoughts, plan a frazzle-free festive season, and jingle all the way. Remember, Father Christmas really only does visit us when we’re asleep!