For all its merriment and cheer, the holiday season can also be a stressful time. Your social calendar is likely jam-packed with social events, the pressure to find the perfect gift is on and your cooking skills are about to be put to the ultimate test. Factor in the late nights, disrupted routines and the lack of sunlight, and it’s no surprise that many of us find sleep so elusive this time of year.
If you tend to feel like a zombie around the holiday season, know that there are ways to get more of that sweet, sweet slumber you desperately crave. Ahead, check out a few helpful tips on how to reclaim your sleep during the holidays.
1. Take time to relax and unwind before bed
Have you ever gone to bed feeling exhausted, only to toss and turn all night long because your brain won’t shut off? We’ve all been there before.
To keep racing thoughts from sabotaging your sleep, incorporate relaxing rituals into your bedtime routine. Try winding down by snuggling up to a cozy weighted blanket, which some research suggests can help with anxiety and insomnia. Relaxing activities such as reading, journaling and taking a warm bath can also reduce your stress levels, making it easier to fall asleep after the holiday hubbub dies down.
2. Avoid overloading your schedule
With office parties to attend, family gatherings to plan and holiday shopping to complete, the winter months are often the busiest months of the year. Although it may be tempting to accept every holiday party invitation that comes your way, doing so could add unnecessary stress that keeps you up at night. This year, be realistic about how much you can fit into your schedule and decide in advance who you want to spend time with. If you aren’t excited about a particular event or party, politely decline the invitation and offer to get together after the New Year — or whenever your schedule permits.
3. Consider leaving the party early
On a similar note, don’t be afraid to duck out early from a social event — especially if your schedule is already jam-packed or if the party is going to stretch on well past your bedtime. Sure, the host may be disappointed that you can’t stay longer, but they should be understanding as long as you provide a good excuse (e.g., the babysitter can only stay until nine). Just make sure that you let your host know in advance that you’ll need to leave the festivities early. That way, they won’t be surprised when you have to duck out early.
4. Nap with caution
As much as we all want to be in bed at a specific time, late nights happen. Maybe you needed to wait for your kids to go to bed before playing Santa. Perhaps you wanted to stay up late with friends you only see but once a year. Whatever the reason, taking a nap the next day can be a great way to catch up on a missed snooze, as long as they’re done right. To nap correctly, keep your naps short (under 20 minutes) and try to create a restful sleeping environment. Set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature and consider wearing a sleep mask to help block out light.
5. Go easy on the alcohol
While alcohol is known to make us feel sleepy and more relaxed, it can have a negative impact on sleep. A team of researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine found that alcohol interferes with the body’s sleep-regulating mechanism, leading to more frequent nighttime awakenings.
For a better night’s snooze this holiday season, stop drinking alcohol at least four hours before bed and limit your libations to one drink a day. Also, drink plenty of water between your alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated and reduce the negative effects of alcohol.
6. Try a natural sleep aid
Whether you’re staying the night at someone else’s house for the holidays or trying to get a better night’s snooze in your own bed, using a natural sleep aid can be a game-changer for your sleep. Unlike prescription sleeping pills, which often come with a host of unwanted side effects, natural sleep aids promise to lull you to sleep with minimal (if any) side effects. For example, wearing a sleep mask can help improve your sleep quality by making your sleeping environment pitch black. Melatonin, valerian and other sleep-inducing supplements may also help improve the quality of your slumber. Note: Some supplements may cause adverse reactions, so be sure to talk to your doctor before using them.
7. Don’t skip your workout
Finding the time and the energy to squeeze in a workout can be tough, especially during the colder months when all you want to do is stay in your cozy bed. But if you want to maximize your nightly snooze this holiday season, skipping your morning workouts is the last thing you should do. According to the experts, getting exercise first thing in the morning can help usher in a good night’s sleep by lowering stress and anxiety, increasing your sleep drive and recalibrating your sleep schedule. To make your morning workouts more enjoyable, set out your workout clothes the night before and listen to music while you get ready to help pump yourself up.
8. Rethink your nighttime holiday snack
From now until New Year’s Day, your diet will likely include a number of holiday indulgences. We’re talking about everything from eggnog and gingerbread to turkey dinners with yummy cranberry sauce. While it’s fine to indulge in these high-calorie foods occasionally, eating too many of them — and at the wrong time — can take a toll on your sleep quality. For example, overeating or eating too close to bedtime can be taxing on your digestive system, which means you may have trouble sleeping. To avoid disrupting your sleep, try to eat your biggest meal earlier in the day and stop eating when you start feeling full.
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