Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


5 Tips For Better Sleep During The Holidays

Settling Your Brain For A Long Winter's Nap

It’s no secret the holidays are a wee bit busy and stressful. And one of the first things to go, when you’re busy and stressed, is your sleep. It’s ironic that, at the time of year when our nights are the longest, sleep should be so hard to achieve. It’s also ironic that one of the best ways to manage all that holiday stress is to getting good quality sleep.

If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, everything feels much more overwhelming, doesn’t it? Also--and you’re not going to like this--sleep deficiency is linked with weight gain. In a season that’s already full of chocolate and eggnog and other rich treats, this is very bad news.

For many reasons, it’s important to make sleep a priority during the season. Here are some of my top tips for improving your sleep over the holidays.

1. Stick To A Sleep Schedule

Schedules often go out the window over the holidays. You stay up late (for parties, to get your shopping done, to power through all that gift wrapping...) and then sleep late the next day (if your kids will let you!). That kind of shift wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythms—the internal clock that controls our body’s functions on a day/night cycle—and messes with our sleep. As much as you can, try to keep your rhythms regular, and the same from day to day.

2. Watch Your Alcohol Intake

Over the holidays many of us make a little more merry than usual. And that’s okay—you just have to know yourself, and what your limits are. And you should know that alcohol can interfere with your sleep. It’s a sedative, true, and may make you drop off quickly, but you’ll likely pay the price later—alcohol causes increased wakefulness later in your sleep cycle. So unless you really want to get up at 3 am and write Christmas cards, it’s best to curb alcohol in the hours before bedtime. 

3. Relax Before Bedtime

Your to-do list has likely exploded, now that the holidays are around the corner. Baking, shopping, entertaining, cleaning...plus all the regular life activities that, curiously, don’t seem to go away just because the holidays are here. All that stuff dancing in your head as you climb into bed is not quite as relaxing as, say, visions of sugarplums might be. It’s crucial, at least half an hour before bedtime, to turn off all your electronics and just relax: take a warm bath, have a cup of herbal tea, read a good book.

4. Curb The Caffeine

Gingerbread lattes, peppermint hot cocoa, a frothy cappucino after a big meal with your relatives...the holidays and caffeinated treats seem to go hand in hand. But it’s no secret that caffeine can really hamper your sleep. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, but if you want the most restful sleep you can get, try to limit your caffeine intake to the morning hours only.  

5. Have A Bedtime Snack

And I don’t mean milk and cookies. The right bedtime snack can help you achieve a full night’s rest. Look for foods that contain these sleep-inducing compounds: melatonin, tryptophan, and magnesium.

  • Melatonin-rich foods: like grapes, walnuts, and especially tart cherries and tart cherry juice.
  • Tryptophan-rich foods: like dairy, soy milk, legumes (like chickpeas), nuts, seeds, and turkey.
  • Magnesium-rich foods: leafy greens, almonds, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and legumes (lentils, black beans, pinto beans, etc.).

And to all a good night!