It’s not just children who get over excited at Christmas time. Adults are also prone to a little overindulgence and stimulation, which can leave us struggling to get to sleep over the festive season. So how do we sleep well over Christmas?
Before we work out how to get a good night’s sleep at Christmas, we need to figure out what is likely to be causing festive insomnia.
Many of us are busy socialising with friends and family, which can mean over-indulgence with food, alcohol, and caffeine. Then there’s the stress of worrying if we have remembered everyone’s presents or got Christmas lunch organised. We also tend to stay up late because it’s the holiday season and there’s some good films on TV, or parties to go to. Lots of late nights and lack of sleep might then result in you wanting to have a lie-in and that disrupts your sleep patterns. All these factors can add together and create disturbed sleep.
Excess alcohol will impact your sleep. Researchers have found it changes the normal sleep cycle. It can make your sleep shallower and increase your heart rate, which means less time spent in REM sleep when your body is repairing itself mentally and physically. So, while many of us fancy an extra tipple with our friends and family, beware, because it could be impacting your sleep. Also, watch out that you don’t mistake that tired feeling after a few vinos, as a sign you are going to sleep well. Alcohol might make you initially feel more drowsy, but it will cause you to have a more disturbed sleep later on.
We’re not going to suggest that you don’t have some festive fun, whether that’s socialising or binge-watching Christmas movies, but if you start having difficulties getting to sleep, then maybe you should pay some attention to your bedtime routine.
We’re all slightly different in terms of how many hours sleep a night we need, but in general terms an adult should be getting between seven and eight hours sleep, although some might need up to nine, while others will be happy with a little less. Teenagers require more, as any parent of a teen will tell you! If you are going to bed much later than you would usually, and/or lying in later because you’re not getting up for work, then you could find it impacts your natural routine and your sleep suffers as a result. Pull your bedtime routine back in synch and your sleep will thank you for it.
If part of your problem is that you’re away from home visiting friends and relatives and in a strange bed, you might find it helps to take your own pillow and duvet with you. There are also plenty of earplugs on the market should you be in a place that is noisier than you’re used to, or forced to sleep near to a snorer, so plan ahead.
There are several ways you can be over-stimulating your brain before bedtime. The first is by ingesting stimulants such as caffeine. We’ve already mentioned how alcohol can impact your sleep quality, and we all understand the effects of caffeine, and yet so many of us will go out for a meal and end it with a coffee. Sometimes we’ll double whammy it by making it an Irish Coffee. Caffeine blocks Adenosine, which is a substance we have in our bodies that makes us feel sleepy. While the hour after you’ve drunk it is the worst, it stays in your system and studies have shown it having an impact for up to six hours afterwards.
Remember also that it’s not just coffee that contains caffeine. Tea also has it at a slightly lower level than coffee, and a serving of Pepsi or Coke, can contain as much as a cup of tea in terms of caffeine. If you do fancy having a coffee to round off your meal, then make sure it’s a decaf and be aware of what mixers you are putting into drinks or what soft drinks you’re consuming. It’s easy to think we are avoiding one insomnia culprit, only to discover we’ve swapped it for another.
The other way that we can over-stimulate our brains is by too much blue light. Many of us will take our phones or iPads into the bedroom and be using them right up to the moment we turn out the lights. It’s recommended that you don’t use any devices for between thirty minutes and an hour before bedtime. The reason is that they emit ‘blue light’ which can trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This includes not having a TV in the bedroom. Remember that if you’ve been given a sleep tracker to monitor and improve your sleep, those screens count too!
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a leaflet called, ‘Sleeping Well’, and they recommend that people, “try something milky or herbal” before bed. Sleep Well is the perfect choice because it is totally natural. Using whole milk and honey as a sweetener, it also contains the herb Valerian which has been helping people to sleep for over two thousand years. The Royal College recommends that using Valerian to help you sleep works best if you take it every night for two or three weeks, so make sure you include Sleep Well as part of your bedtime routine. Suitable for all the family, it’s available in vanilla, chocolate and oat ready to drink cartons.
Christmas can be a stressful time, but it’s important to get any festive preparations into perspective. If you have forgotten to stuff the turkey, it’s fine. Nobody is going to remember that by Boxing Day. The festive period is a time to enjoy and relax, so focus on the positives and allow yourself some relaxing activities before you go to bed. Listen to some music, have a bath, read a book, and keep the bedroom for sleep and time with your partner.
Merry Christmas and wishing you a happy sleepy bedtime from the Sleep Well team. 🌟 🎄
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