As a child, most of us will remember that feeling of not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve, because you were so excited that Father Christmas was coming to visit.
Festive sleeplessness is common among kids, but it can also strike in adulthood. Often, it lasts throughout the month, and it’s generally the pressures of the season rather than the prospect of a new toy that’s keeping us awake.
“Sleep is one of the cornerstones of our health and is as vital to our wellbeing as food and water,” says Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director of the London Sleep Centre.
“Poor sleep is thought to be a factor in a wide range of physical and mental health issues and can affect someone’s quality of life significantly.”
To help you get back on track to a silent night, we’ve identified five common culprits that may be stopping you from sleeping during the festive season.
1. Stress and anxiety
Getting a good nights’ sleep can be difficult if you have something weighing on your mind. And at Christmas, the pressures of day-to-day life can seem even more important.
A survey by short-term sleep aide Phenergan Night Time, highlighted that the participants are most likely to lie awake thinking about financial concerns (31 per cent), followed by family and relationships strain (23 per cent) and their work life (19 per cent).
These problems feel difficult enough to deal with at any time of year, but might seem even more pressing when December rolls around. Add a busy social calendar and the pressures of buying the perfect gift to the mix and there’s a lot that can keep you alert.
“If you’re lying awake worrying about your to-do list, or how financially or physically you’re going to achieve something, then simply writing it down can help make things feel more manageable,” says Dr Ebrahim.
“I suggest keeping a small notebook on your bedside table and anytime you’re lying in bed feeling overwhelmed, sit up, turn the bedside lamp on and just note down everything that’s on your mind.”
One of the joys of Christmas has to be the abundance of decadent food and drink. It’s hard not to indulge, and denying yourself those special treats really isn’t in the Christmas spirit, is it?
From turkey to truffles, sprouts to spirits – whatever you fancy could be on offer around the festive season. However, while you may have considered your waistline, have you thought about the effect all this indulgence might have on your sleeping pattern? Dr Ebrahim recommends being mindful of what you eat and drink: “Things to avoid in the evening include alcohol and caffeine, and chocolate, which can keep you awake.
“Many people think a glass of wine helps them sleep better and, although it may help you fall asleep quicker, it will disrupt your quality of sleep throughout the night.
“Also, avoid spicy or acidic foods that can give you heartburn and cause discomfort when you get into bed.”
3. Late nights and early mornings
Burning the candle at both ends is an unsustainable way of living that can lead to exhaustion and burnout. Due to social commitments, though, many of us find we end up squeezing more into less time, especially in December.
Dr Ebrahim suggests sticking to a routine as best as possible – and remember, it’s okay to say no to things if you’re feeling exhausted.
“Although it’s sometimes impossible, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can really help get your body into a good rhythm for sleep.
“I would suggest sticking to the same bedtime every weeknight and weekends if possible.”
4. Wired, not tired
The social pressures of buying gifts for family and friends means that we often spend more time online than we otherwise would at any other time of year – not to mention trying to keep up with the latest social media posts.
Using a screen just before bed can be set you up for a restless night though, as the blue light it emits inhibits the sleep hormone melatonin.
“The bedroom should be a place for rest and not a working office,” warns Dr Ebrahim.
“With today’s life demands, it can be hard to fully ‘switch off’ from emails and social media, but if you can it will really benefit your sleep.
“If you do insist on having a phone in the bedroom, then try not to look at the screen at least 30 minutes before you want to fall asleep, so that your melatonin levels have a chance to regulate.
“Try reading a book instead and put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode to limit distractions.”
Do you find your sleep schedule changes around the Christmas period? How do you stay on track and make sure you’re getting enough rest?
– With PA
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