How the festive season affects our sleep

09 December 2020

Give yourself the gift of healthy sleep this Christmas.

Bank holidays

With people taking time off work, parties to attend and excited kids on Christmas morning, our sleep cycle usually looks very different around this time of year. It’s important to try and stick to a routine and maintain good sleep hygiene so that that the festivities don’t negatively impact your sleep. By paying extra attention to your habits during the day and at night, you can ensure that your natural body clock, or your circadian rhythm, ticks along nicely.

Mince pies and turkey

Our tendency to overindulge on food at Christmas can wreak havoc on our sleep quality. A plate of seconds before bed means that the body has to allocate its energy to digesting turkey and Brussel sprouts, making it more difficult to switch off. Overeating can also mean acid reflux, heartburn and feeling bloated, all of which can lead to an uncomfortable night. It’s best to eat a few hours before putting your head down and to avoid food with low fibre and high amounts of sugar and saturated fat.

Money worries

Christmas can be a worrying time of year as people stretch their budgets to pick up presents for all of their loved ones. Our anxiety triggers the release of cortisol, otherwise known as a stress hormone. Although the chemical is released naturally when we wake, excessive amounts can cause us to feel hyper-alert. Setting a realistic budget for gifts and practising mindfulness can prevent stress from keeping you tossing and turning at night.

Brandy and other booze

Many people consume more alcohol over the festive period. While it might seem that a glass of wine or a pint of beer can help us switch off, the added units usually disrupt our sleep later in the night as our liver processes the drink in our bloodstream. Although alcohol’s sedative qualities help with sleep onset, it also suppresses REM sleep, which is believed to boost our memory and problem-solving skills.

Season of good will

It’s not all bad news. The added opportunities to see family and friends can actually improve the quality of your sleep. The social side of Christmas can help ward off depression and boost levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps us to differentiate between night and day and enter ‘sleep mode’. Just remember to wind down from the excitement of the season’s fun and games before you curl up under your duvet.

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