As we deck the halls and trees, it’s no secret that the festive holiday season brings a whirlwind of joy, celebration, and perhaps a touch of chaos. While visions of many get-togethers with family and friends may dance in our heads, the reality is that the Christmas holidays often usher in a season of disrupted sleep, heightened stress levels, and a flurry of travel plans.
Denise iordache, sleep therapist and the brains behind the “Sleep Better. Perform Better” program, unwraps the truth about the challenges to our sleep during the festive season and details five simple yet effective tips to bid farewell to Christmas sleep and stress troubles.
Sleep is Affected during the Holidays
The holiday season, despite its festive charm, tends to disrupt our sleep patterns. Research indicates that during the Christmas holidays, many individuals experience a decrease in sleep duration and quality¹.
The combination of late-night festivities, increased social engagements, and the stress of meeting holiday expectations can leave us tossing and turning when we should be nestled all snug in our beds. Additionally, studies suggest that the added pressure of travel during the holidays can further contribute to sleep disturbances and elevated stress levels.
Navigating the Holiday Hustle: Managing Overwhelm and Family Gatherings
In the midst of the Christmas hustle, it’s not just the twinkling lights and carollers that can create chaos – the sheer volume of social interactions, family gatherings, and the pressure to spread cheer can leave us feeling overwhelmed.
Research suggests that the holiday season often brings an uptick in stress levels due to the increased social demands we face. The abundance of family gatherings, while joyous in essence, can sometimes expose us to individuals we may find challenging or draining.
In the spirit of maintaining your mental well-being and, consequently, ensuring a good night’s sleep, it’s crucial to establish boundaries and prioritise self-care during the holidays.
If the idea of mingling with certain family members causes anxiety, consider setting realistic expectations for yourself. Politely decline invitations when needed, opt for shorter visits, or create quiet moments for yourself during gatherings to recharge.
Moreover, having an exit strategy or a trusted friend or family member to confide in can be invaluable. Communicate openly with loved ones about your need for balance and self-care, ensuring that your holiday experience remains positive and fulfilling. Remember, ’tis the season to be jolly, but it’s equally important to safeguard your peace of mind and prioritise your well-being amidst the festivities.
With the holiday season in full swing, we all know how tempting it is to sacrifice sleep for the festivities. To help navigate this merry and bright season and bust Christmas sleep and stress troubles, here are a few practical solutions to ensure that your nights are filled with peaceful dreams rather than restless worries:
1. Establish a Festive Bedtime Routine: In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to let bedtime routines fall by the wayside. However, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for a good night’s rest.
Create a festive bedtime routine that signals to your body that it’s time to wind down. Whether it’s sipping on a cup of herbal tea, indulging in a holiday-themed book, or listening to calming music, find activities that help you relax. Make your bedtime routine a cherished part of the holiday season, and you’ll be dozing off with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head in no time.
2. Limit Stimulating Screens Before Bed: I get it – those holiday movie marathons are hard to resist. However, the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
To ensure a restful night, power down your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, opt for a warm bath or cosying up with a good old-fashioned paperback. This simple switch will help your brain transition to sleep mode, leaving you more relaxed and ready for a silent night.
3. Tame the Holiday Stress Monster: The holiday season often brings joy but can also unleash a ‘stress monster’ that wreaks havoc on your sleep. Combat stress by incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine.
Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, or gentle yoga to help calm your mind. Additionally, make a to-do list to organise your tasks and prioritise what truly needs to be done. By managing stress, you’ll pave the way for a more peaceful and rejuvenating sleep experience.
4. Watch Your Festive Feast Timing: While indulging in a holiday feast is one of the season’s delights, the timing of your last meal can impact your sleep. Large or rich meals right before bedtime can lead to discomfort and indigestion, making it harder to fall asleep.
Aim to finish your last holiday nibble at least two to three hours before hitting the hay. If you’re feeling peckish closer to bedtime, opt for a light, sleep-friendly snack like a small serving of nuts or a banana. Your digestive system will thank you, too.
5. Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment: Transform the room you sleep in into a sleep haven by paying attention to your surroundings. Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet – ideal conditions for a restful slumber. While considering your own bedroom, you can invest in blackout curtains to block out intrusive holiday lights and consider using earplugs or a white noise machine to drown out any festive noise outside.
Ensure your mattress and pillows provide the support you need for a comfortable night’s sleep. By curating a sleep-inducing environment, even while you’re away, you’ll set the stage for a holiday season filled with restorative rest.
So, there you have it, Sleep Enthusiasts – five tips to bid farewell to Christmas sleep and stress troubles. As you navigate the holiday season, remember that prioritising your sleep is the key to enjoying the festivities to the fullest. Implement these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to a holly, jolly, and well-rested holiday season.
This guest feature was written by Denise iordache, sleep therapist & founder of JoySpace Therapy.
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