It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holidays can also be filled with stress, busy schedules, and not enough sleep. Whether it’s shopping and wrapping, late-night parties, or a pile-up of stress that’s got you feeling fried, these are some key ways to improve your shuteye during the hap-happiest season of all.
Having fun with friends and family members can be a great stress reliever, because it boosts levels of the so-called cuddle hormone oxytocin. So go ahead and make time to exchange gifts, reminisce, and catch up on everybody’s lives. But beware: All friends and family members aren’t created equal, and for some people, family obligations can be one of the biggest sources of family stress. If that’s true for you, try to avoid or minimize negative interactions, whether that means avoiding that uncle who always fights with you over politics or staying at a hotel (rather than crashing at your parents’ or sibling’s place) in order to give yourself an escape from drama.
Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and all of the prep work that goes into holiday celebrations takes time and energy. Put it off until the last second, and it can take a big toll on your stress level—and your sleep. So make a list, check it twice, and start chipping away at your to-dos now instead of waiting. Besides, you’ll avoid the most frenzied crowds and traffic and you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor that much more if you aren’t exhausted when the big day arrives.
Bake sales, gift exchanges, dinner parties—any one seasonal activity can be fun on its own. But agree to too many and you can wind up feeling super tense. Be realistic about how much time and energy you have, and just say no before you end up pulling an all-nighter baking or wrapping presents.
When it all feels like too much to handle, skip the glass of wine and grab a good comedy flick instead. While alcohol may seem like it helps you relax, it can actually disrupt your sleep during the night, making your zzz’s less restorative. Laughing out loud, on the other hand, can actually slash your levels of stress hormone, helping you to unwind before bed.
No one wants to feel like a party pooper. But the truth is that too much late-night fun can—and will—wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Your car might not turn into a pumpkin, Cinderella-style, but you’ll either pay the price in bleary eyes the next day or, if you catch up by sleeping in, you’ll run the risk of tossing and turning the following night. So decide in advance what time you’ll depart each holiday gathering, and then stick to your guns when the clock strikes—no FOMO allowed.
Do late nights still have you feeling exhausted? There’s no replacement for a regular sleep/wake schedule, but a nap can help you bridge the gap when it doesn’t happen. Schedule it in the afternoon to take advantage of your body’s natural sleep rhythms. Twenty to 30 minutes is all you need for a quick pick-me-up, but a 90-minute nap can be even more restorative if you have the time.