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Effects of the holiday season on sleep quality

Effects of the holiday season on sleep quality

The holiday season has officially commenced! It’s a great time to celebrate with loved ones, bake, and shop. However, that can sometimes mean being busy and stressed for a portion, if not a majority of the holiday season. We often forget that this time of year is a mix of busy and fun, and unfortunately, disrupted sleep. If the holidays mess with your sleep, then you’re at the right place. Let’s take a look at what makes your sleep go crazy during the season.

Heightened stress levels


2020 has been quite stressful for the general population. According to the American Psychological Association, 54% of Americans feel stressed, partly due to COVID-19 and its implications. With the added stress of a global pandemic and the holidays, many people already dealing with sleep troubles may inevitably incur sleep disorders.


A common sleep disorder that around 30% of adults deal with is insomnia. Although there are multiple reasons why people are diagnosed with this disorder, stress often plays a crucial role for insomniacs. By definition, Insomnia is a persistent difficulty with sleep onset, maintenance, consolidation, or overall quality. To put it simply, as long as there are heightened stressors affecting you, chances of sleep disruptors will likely increase. 


The holiday season surely doesn’t help this cause. But in 2020? That might be a different case. With most cities implementing social and physical restrictions, it’s the best time to have a calmer and relaxing break. Especially since there is a significant lack of get-togethers this year, the craziness of planning parties, cooking extravagant meals, and buying too many gifts might dwindle. While we all wish we could spend the holidays with all our loved ones, we can’t deny the fact that a quieter holiday season means a little more rest and relaxation. 


Late night lights


As fun and extravagant as holiday displays are, for some people, the displays can affect sleep quality. Many organizations, communities, and individuals are showing their holiday spirit but advocating evening drive-bye light displays. Heading to earlier showing or reducing the number of times you head out to see the lights seems small, but it can help you get to sleep. 


Feeling festive inside your home? Well, of course. Who doesn’t love a fully decked out holiday pad? Just be cautious of the lighting around you before heading to bed. Because light is the most important external factor that affects sleep, we should all aim to rest in dark, even pitch black settings. Best to turn off all the indoor displays, use blackout curtains, and even wear a sleep mask to help with your sleep quality. 


Family Issues


Leave it to the holidays to bring up an argument or two with a family member you haven’t talked to in a year. This is common. Even with how things are panning out for in-person dinners this year, dealing with this kind of trauma can happen. At best, fights are forgiven and forgotten. At worst, it can send you into complete overdrive. Meaning that you’re likely thinking about it before bed, then again at 3 am. 


For the sake of your sanity and sleep, set those boundaries with yourself, and note which conversations are worth having. In a Zoom-filled era, it might be a great idea to allocate time slots for family chats. Difficult conversations are worth having. But when you set the limits - you have the authority to end it, move on, and get a better night’s rest. 


Holiday foods


Food is a big part of the holidays, as it should be! However, if you want to keep (or start) a consistent and proper sleep routine, then watch out for all the treats that can disrupt your sleep. There are many sedative type foods out there, as well as foods that can keep you up all night. Great news! We’ve recently written a blog for ways to avoid holiday sleepiness, which you can read here. But if you’re looking for a quick list for both sleep-inducing and wakefulness treats, we’ve got you covered.

Sleep inducing foods

  • Alcohol - known sedative properties 
  • Turkey - high in protein and tryptophan
  • Milk - high in tryptophan 
  • Nuts - high in melatonin

Wakefulness foods

  • Aged cheese - high in tyramine, an amino acid that keeps you awake
  • Ice cream - rich in tyramine
  • Tomatoes - boosts your brain activity
  • Fatty foods - keeps the digestive system in overdrive

Increased alcohol consumption


Who doesn’t love some mulled wine, eggnog, and beer advent calendars to end off the year. We know we do! Alcoholic beverages make great gifts, and can be staple holiday treats. Although we are not discouraging limited amounts of drink consumption, overindulging will likely disrupt your sleep quality. 


According to a survey conducted by SleepCycle, parents sleep less, drink more, and lose significant amounts of sleep over the holidays. Some of the reasons as to why parents consume more during this time may surprise you. 60% of parents say they drink due to obligations at holiday parties and 42% consume more alcohol because “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Hey, we don’t blame them at all. 


Although alcohol functions as a gateway to relaxation, it actually has drastically negative effects on sleep. For one, it takes a long time to digest in your system. First, alcohol hits your digestion, then your bloodstream, and inevitably suppresses the REM stage of your sleep. Second, alcohol consumption can lead to sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. So yes, limited amounts of alcohol are encouraged but know that it has more effects than what is commonly known. 


The holidays are supposed to be a time to enjoy yourself with those around you. While the numerous parties and dinners may be on hold, it’s still important to plan ahead, prioritize yourself, and most importantly, minimize stress. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. We think everyone should at least have a holiday season that’s full of consistently quality sleep!


References

  1. https://www.bustle.com/p/9-ways-the-holidays-can-affect-your-sleep-what-to-do-about-it-13178997
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/stress-and-insomnia
  3. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/light-and-sleep
  4. https://www.foodnetwork.ca/healthy-eating/photos/foods-keeping-you-awake/#!last-slide
  5. https://www.sleepcycle.com/sleep-science/parents-sleep-less-and-drink-more-during-the-holidays/
  6. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/alcohol-and-sleep