The end of the year is drawing near, which for many people means late nights celebrating and holiday parties filled with alcohol and food aplenty. In the moment, these seem like great ideas. After all, who doesn’t want to eat a bunch of cookies and drink a spiked hot chocolate? But after a couple nights (or weekends) of this routine, the human body starts to feel … not so great. One consequence of this behavior? Sleep deprivation.
Holiday-induced sleep deprivation can make you cranky and have an adverse effect on your celebrations. More generally speaking, not getting enough sleep can result in weight gain, daytime fatigue, weakened immunity and an increased risk of a heart attack. No one wants to have their holidays — or their long-term health — ruined by a lack of rest.
To avoid these types of problems, it helps to understand the elements that can negatively impact your sleep. Martin Reed, who has a master’s degree in health and wellness education and a certification in clinical sleep health, offered some insight as well as some tips for getting better sleep. Reed is also the founder of Insomnia Coach, which provides sleep coaching and sleep education. Here are his recommendations:
Your first thought upon hearing the word caffeine is probably coffee, but bear in mind that it appears in other items like chocolate and soda, Reed said. He suggested avoiding caffeine in the six hours prior to bedtime.
“[A]s the body breaks down alcohol, it has a stimulant effect — so, although a few nightcaps might help you fall asleep faster, they may lead to nighttime awakenings and more time spent away later in the night,” Reed said. To reduce sleep disruption, he encouraged limiting booze consumption to one or two glasses of wine or beer with dinner three to four hours before bed.
Specific kinds of food can cause indigestion and heartburn, thereby making getting some quality zzz’s challenging. Reed said it’s best to refrain from spicy foods, foods that have beans, and foods that are high in protein and fat two hours prior to bedtime.
Even though it’s tempting to become a couch potato over the holidays, staying active is crucial to your overall health and your sleep. Reed advised avoiding intense exercise in the three to four hours before going to bed, “since this may actually delay sleep onset.”
Stress around the holidays? No surprise there. “If you find that your sleep is being negatively affected by stress, it can be helpful to reserve the hour before bed as a ‘buffer zone’ during which time you only do things that you find relaxing and enjoyable in order to promote calm and reduce sleep interruptions,” Reed said. That’s a good idea to keep in mind year-round, not just during the holidays. He added that meditation and guided relaxation exercises can help too.