Despite looking forward to the holiday season, many people emerge from the holidays feeling the effects on their physical and emotional well-being. Often, disrupted sleep is the culprit. How can we minimize the impact on our sleep, and, in turn, our well-being so we can fully enjoy the activities of the season?
It can be helpful to consider how travel plans can affect the timing of sleep and wake periods. Ideally, you want to protect your sleep by scheduling travel during your normal wake period, not while you’re typically asleep. Frequently though, some changes in our normal rhythm cannot be avoided due to the timing of travel. However, we can minimize the longer-term consequences by implementing healthy sleep behaviors. For example, when arriving at your destination, it’s beneficial to adopt your typical bedtime and wake-up time as soon as possible. It’s tempting to sleep in following a late night. However, over several days, later sleep can throw off your typical sleep time, resulting in difficulty falling asleep or wakefulness during the night. Therefore, getting back to your regular awakening time helps your body to return to its established schedule.
Also, when visiting with friends and family during the cooler months, it’s very easy to enter hibernation mode. While spending time indoors is to be expected during the holiday season, it’s important not to miss out on the powerful benefits of natural light. Especially when the days are at their shortest, exposure to natural outdoor light can enhance feelings of alertness during the day. The benefit of increased alertness during the day is a stronger drive to sleep at night. Consequently, prioritizing some outdoor time during the holiday season can have benefits for sleep at night.
Lastly, visiting with friends and family frequently means that you are missing the elements of your daily routine that help to anchor your own rhythm. Implementing even the small rituals during the holiday, such as a morning coffee, evening bath, or bedtime book, can remind your body of your own typical rhythm.