During Christmas time we often take on different routines, eat and drink more and have more late nights than we are used to – adults and children alike. Mostly an enjoyable time we can sometimes feel overwhelmed, pressured and stressed. This cocktail of festive factors can sometimes affect our health and most importantly our sleep. Whilst the odd change in routine (and the cheeky glass of sherry) is not going to drastically affect our sleep, the monthly affair that Christmas has become may well do.
We aren’t humbugs here at Sleepyhead – we don’t want to take away all the fun, so take on board these few easy steps to keep sleep health optimum this Christmas:
The pre-Christmas run up
Can’t find the perfect Christmas present? Worried about the amount of people you invited for Christmas dinner? How do we do it?! This is exactly the kind of thinking that keeps us up at night, spending more time staring at the ceiling of negative thoughts rather than sleeping. It is a vicious cycle to get yourself in – the worry causes your heart rate to increase, which causes your temperature to increase, which reduces your drive to sleep, which makes you worry…and so on. It is therefore sensible to organize your next day of festive planning well before you get to the bedroom so that you can put those thoughts to bed. Literally. LEAVE your electronic distractions away from the bedroom (yup there is such a thing as an old fashioned alarm clock) and then start winding down. Note: Winding down is another way of saying ‘me’ time. This involves no tasks, bills, emails, work, ironing, Christmas planning, online shopping……and so it goes on. It is a time for relaxation, comfort and slowing down. So re-arrange your evening so that this ‘me’ time exists an hour before you go to sleep.
The festive drink issue
The most important thing to note here is whilst alcohol may make you feel sleepy for an hour or so, it actually does the opposite by the time you metabolise it. Your sleep is more likely to be fragmented and unrefreshing or, you find it difficult to get any sleep at all. Worse, you are robbed of your ‘dream’ sleep which makes sleep feel very unsatisfying regardless of whether you remember your dreams or not. Further, getting used to a late night tipple can cause these issues to become permanent (insomnia) and narrows your airways making you snore or even stop you breathing at night (sleep apnoea).
Try to limit your intake or drink earlier in the evening so the alcohol wears off before sleep time. Make sure you have as many alcohol free days as you can between parties to allow your sleep to recover and to avoid your body habitualising to this abnormal sleeping pattern.
The post-Christmas party lie-in
The odd one won’t harm you but unfortunately your natural sleep/wake cycle just loves routine – especially regular wake times. In fact, this natural alarm clock is so good that everything we do during the day is dictated by it – when you feel hungry, alert, happy and sleepy..to name but a few! It is not such a surprise then that when we sleep-in past this natural rising time these chemicals/hormones are all over the place. This makes us feel grumpy, sluggish and can make us eat more (who knew it was the day after that helped us gain those few extra pounds over Christmas!). Over time your body gets used to this chaos and it can seem like you have to sleep-in just to get through the day, when in actual fact it is you that needs to wake up earlier, more regularly. Over the festive period try to maintain your regular sleep/wake cycle most of the time so that your body never gets used to the new lie-in routine.
Food food food!
We seem to let ourselves go over Christmas when it comes to eating healthily and instead we indulge in rich, fatty and quite frankly, fabulously tasting treats! So how does that affect our sleep? Well, it’s difficult to break down rich foods and we also tend to eat later at night. Your body needs time to metabolise and return to normal before it even starts thinking about the processes for sleep. Forcing it to do both can end up in sore tummies, heartburn and tossing and turning all the way through the night. Nobody wants you to give up your favourite festive treats, just be mindful of when you’re having them and how much you’re cramming in.
So HAPPY CHRISTMAS everyone and look forward to the Christmas parties, the fizz and festive food, and even the odd lie-in and snooze! But remember to guard your sleep well (after all, Father Christmas does not come to the house until all are NOT stirring, not even a mouse!).
Keep posted for the next Sleepyhead blog for advice on getting over the festive period and starting afresh in the New Year with satisfying and healthy sleep!