Nobody’s got time for feet-dragging, eye-rubbing and yawning this holiday season; there are things to be done! Gifts to buy, parties to attend, dishes to cook, children to wrangle - it’s enough to give anyone a case of the zzz’s.
We all want to feel great and thrive throughout the holidays period (or, perhaps, we just want to come out the other side in one piece!). So, protecting and prioritising your sleep these holidays.
At Buoya Vital, we approach sleep holistically to create lasting behavioural change in our clients. We know that better sleep goes beyond popping a sleeping pill or sipping a cup of chamomile tea before bed. Better sleep - and an overall improvement in health - is right around the corner. Here’s five steps to get you started…
1. Switch it all the way off
You heard us: all the way off. That email can wait. Promise.
During the holiday season, things can get hectic real quick. So, everyday, it is important to make a conscious effort to breathe out. Unplug. Zen out. Switch off. Ground yourself. Whichever way you twist it, it simply means taking time for your mind and your body - away from your devices.
While it may not be realistic to ditch your smartphone for good during this period, remember to switch off at least an hour before bedtime to avoid an unsatisfying snooze. Harvard researchers found that exposure to a smartphone’s blue light can suppress the secretion of melatonin, the body’s essential sleep hormone.
Additionally, while scrolling your phone may feel mindless, it’s far from it. Using your phone increases alertness and brain activity, keeping you up and delaying entrance into the REM stage of sleep.
2. Consistency is key
Getting better sleep isn’t about cunning hacks or quick-fixes - it starts with being sensible and, importantly, consistent.
Sleeping better can begin with something as simple as this: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Groundbreaking stuff, right?
Well, actually - yes. Recent studies suggest that keeping reliable sleep and wake time can aid with overall sleep quality, a healthier body composition, decreased risk of heart disease and better mental health. Win, win, win much?
So how can something as simple as setting a reminder be so life-changing when it comes to better sleep and overall health? It’s all about the rhythm, baby. The circadian rhythm that is. Like your body’s internal clock, your individual circadian rhythm performs best on a schedule to deliver you restorative shut-eye.
If sticking to a strict routine is not possible for your lifestyle, don’t stress too much: there is wiggle-room, praise be the sleep gods! Life gets busy and sleep gets thrown out of whack, especially at this time of year. While staying up late, sleeping in and napping can all affect your sleep quality, a “wind down” routine can be the antidote to a restless sleep.
3. Try not to overdo it with the alcohol
Look, the key word here is try! We totally get it - avoiding alcohol entirely over the holidays, (be it Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, New Years) is hard, point blank. There are practically flowing champagne bottles at every turn, not to mention that post-feast tipple.
While alcohol affects everyone differently, what we do know is that even a small amount of booze can impact your sleep, with one study finding that by having just two standard drinks, a person’s sleep quality can decrease by up to 9.3%.
Being aware of the risks is one thing, but putting better drinking habits into practice is quite another. Regardless of your values, lifestyle and how you celebrate, it is always recommended to drink in moderation. To negate the bad effects of alcohol on sleep, try having a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage, and get into bed in time to get a full seven hour snooze.
4. Eat your way to better sleep
We promise we’re not trying to be the bearers of bad news on your holiday, but being mindful of what and when you eat can actually make the difference in catching extra zzz’s each night.
When you eat late in the night, your body works hard to digest it - right when you’re trying to get to sleep. The surefire way to eat for sleep is to try not to eat late at night. But, we’re only human after all: if you get peckish after hours, just try to stick to a lighter or, preferably, plant-based option.
We all know sugar is here in abundance. Certain holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are practically synonymous with an impending sugar hangover. What with the sugary cocktails, mountains of chocolates and baked sweets, it’s no wonder our sleep can get patchy on holiday.
It probably goes without saying, but sleep and (excessive) sugar are just not friends. Let us lay it out for you: excessive sugar consumption leads to poor quality sleep. Poor quality sleep leads your body to crave sugar. Talk about a vicious cycle.
If you feel the need to indulge, try a tryptophan-rich snack to send you soundly to sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan prepare you for sleep by making serotonin, the “happy hormone” and melatonin, the “sleep hormone”.
Foods containing Tryptophan
● Poultry (Chicken, Turkey)
5. Say “no way” to burnout
Perhaps the hardest part of this otherwise joyous time of year is the utter exhaustion we find ourselves in. It can be hard to say no. And, for some reason, come December everyone is desperate to “just catch up” before the new year. Why now?!
Holiday burnout is a real phenomenon, with one in three people in the US experiencing holiday burnout before December 25th. The culprit of a lot of this burnout is a familiar three-letter word: yes. And we need to stop saying it so much.
Between tenuous family affairs, rowdy holiday functions and financial freefall, it’s easy for the holiday season to get the best of both your sleep patterns and your mental health. By putting firm personal boundaries in place, you can protect your energy and, of course, precious sleep.
First and foremost, understand that “no” is not a dirty word. It is possible to hold firm boundaries while remaining polite and amiable. It’s even possible to change your mind about a previous “yes”. This silly season, your physical and mental health comes first - and that starts with getting a great night’s sleep.
Learn more about how you can protect your sleep here.