Sleep and the Holiday Season
Fall isn’t just delightful for the colorful leaves and actually bearable, moderate weather. It’s a time when a lot of fun festivities begin, particularly Halloween, cultural holidays such as mid-autumn festivals and Diwali, and of course, Thanksgiving.
These are all great reasons to take a little vacation out to visit friends and family, celebrating with spooky decor, cultural attire and delicacies, and turkeys. But between the glitz and haunted houses, you still need quality sleep so you can best handle all your holiday rituals. Whether you’re participating in a cultural ceremony or walking through a spooky haunted house, the more alert you are, the better the memories you’ll make.
Here’s a few pointers on how the holiday season can disrupt your sleep and tips on how to fight back to have a fantastic time:
1. Jet lag, obviously.
If you’re flying to see others, you’re probably going to end up with jet lag. If you’ve experienced it before, it’s pretty clear how it disrupts sleep: the sudden shift in time zones just doesn’t align with your new schedule, forcing you to sacrifice sleep or stay up later to be up when the locals are.
To beat jet lag, start by setting all your clocks to your new time as soon as possible so your aren’t consciously reminded of your internal clock’s time. Try not to nap too long if you arrive during the day. Stay in the sunlight as much as you can — light exposure naturally stimulates your body’s circadian rhythm to stay awake.
2. Party time! Bring out the alcohol!
The holiday festivities usually call for quite a bit of booze and other substances, which can be fantastic to unwind with for a few nights. However, too much and you’ll be waking up after a wee three hours of sleep, unable to go back and finish up those 8 hours. That’s especially a bummer if you’ve got plans the next day that call for some mental clarity, such as a new hike or a sacred cultural ritual.
To not deal with these dreaded awakenings, remind yourself to carefully watch your alcohol intake. It can be fun to continuously down your cousin’s delicious margaritas and daiquiris while they fill you in on their past year’s debauchery, but it might not be a great idea if you really need a good night’s sleep right after.
3. Of course, the sumptuous (but usually kinda unhealthy) feasts.
Holidays just aren’t complete without the food rituals, such as mooncakes for mid-autumn festivals or turkey for Thanksgiving. As much as “calories don’t count when it’s a holiday”, the effects of what you’re eating do. Unhealthy eating can make it harder to sleep. And of course, there’s food comas from indulging in way too many of grandma’s delicious blackberry pies. This can mean you’ll be sleeping too late, too early, or too much.
To not be conquered by the mouthwatering dishes, watch your intake. If you’re up for it, see if you can figure out any healthier replacements and skip out on the really greasy stuff.
4. You probably aren’t going to the gym.
We’ve written a few articles here on how exercise is beneficial for getting quality sleep. If the gym has been a defining factor in that for you, you probably aren’t getting it while you’re on holiday. But you don’t need a gym to get exercise: walks and hikes burn tons of calories.
If you’re out of town, check out local hikes, walkable areas, or dance classes you can drop in. Dance parties burn a lot of calories, but they’re laden with booze so watch out! Since you’ll be with friends and family, see if you can organize a communal soccer game or a dance-off to feel less guilty about the feasting.
5. You’re not sleeping in your usual space.
Sometimes, sleeping in unfamiliar locations can subconsciously keep us awake. Studies actually show that the left half of the brain stays on guard and awake during our first nights in a new setting. It’s likely to come from an evolutionary defense mechanism to scope out new predators in new terrain.
You’re also probably sleeping on a different surface too, which can be for the better or for the worse. If you’re used to high-rated, high-quality memory foam mattresses and pillows like those from Lull (which are $300 off right now too), then it might be a little hard to adjust to a tattered bed that hasn’t been washed in ages.