The holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes a jam-packed social calendar. But if the never-ending carousel of festivities tends to leave you feeling depleted by Christmas day, we’re here to help. Whether it’s catching up with friends and family or the office Christmas party, it is possible to enjoy the party season without having to sacrifice your sleep.
Implementing some clever tricks, such as swapping every alcoholic drink with a glass of water as well as making a beeline for the sprouts (yes, really), can help cut down on sleep disruption. Tackling sleep deprivation is important, as not giving our bodies the sleep it needs to function optimally can weaken your immune system and cause sluggish cognitive function (which is your memory and decision-making part of your brain).
Don’t leave yourself strung out and exhausted by the big day. Here, we explore the ways you can enjoy the festive season while still enjoying quality sleep. (If you really want to get serious about your sleep quality, check out our best mattress guide). Let’s get started.
Adopt the ‘half and half’ method
Although alcohol might initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it is one of the biggest disruptors of our sleep quality. It’s common to fall asleep quickly after drinking alcohol, but falling into a deep sleep after drinking alcohol can disrupt the natural stages of sleep that our body requires to properly replenish itself.
Instead, consider adopting the ‘half and half’ method. This is when you drink a glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage. Interspersing your alcohol intake with water this way gives your liver the chance to metabolize the alcohol you’ve already consumed before consuming more. It will also help keep dehydration at bay (alcohol is a diuretic, which means your body loses water when drinking it), so your sleep shouldn’t be disturbed by a headache, either.
Have a power nap
The importance of a sleep schedule to your overall sleep quality can’t be overstated. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day helps your body to fall into a healthy sleep routine, where your sleep needs are consistently being met.
Of course, sleep schedules tend to go out of the window during the festive season. You can offset any late nights with a lunchtime power nap to ensure that you’re getting enough shut-eye for your body to be able to function optimally. Remember, keep your nap to around 20 minutes to avoid going into too deep a sleep and don’t nap too late in the day or you’ll find it hard to fall asleep later that night.
Eat protein-rich party food
Steer clear of the sugary snacks that will keep you wide awake into the small hours, and seek out protein-rich party food instead. While sugary snacks will flood your bloodstream with glucose before being quickly digested (leading to a sugar low), protein-rich foods are digested slowly. This will keep your blood sugar levels regulated and will also help slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
Chicken, cheese, smoked salmon and turkey are all great sources of protein-rich party food. Plus, these foods also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps kick-starts melatonin production. Melatonin is the sleepy hormone that tells your body and brain that it’s time for sleep.
Load up on sprouts
Vegetables with a bitter taste, which include cabbage, parsnips, kale and, yes, sprouts, are cruciferous, which means that they stimulate your liver’s natural detoxification process. This is good news for your sleep quality, especially if you’re planning on having a few drinks. However, it’s important to note that eating cruciferous vegetables too close to your bedtime could mean that your body will still be trying to digest them before going to sleep. Load up on your veggies, but not too late into the night.
Make sleep a priority
Bah, humbug! But hear me out. Sleep is vital to our overall health, and getting enough of it should be high up on your list of priorities. While you can generally offset the occasional party with a couple of power naps and early nights, the sleep debt caused by a buildup of late nights can be harder to pay back — if at all. Make sure you schedule in time in between enjoying the festivities to catch up on rest. Your body will thank you for it.
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Nicola Appleton is Sleep Features Editor at Tom’s Guide, specialising in quality news content surrounding sleep and wellbeing. Nicola cut her teeth as a journalist in a busy newsroom in Bristol, UK, 15 years ago as part of a team at Britain's largest independent press agency. Since then, her job as a journalist has taken her to the States, to Sydney, and then back to Blighty, where she has written and edited features for a whole host of prominent British and international brands, including The Independent, The Sydney Morning Herald, HuffPost, Refinery29, Stylist and more. As well as tackling the vast topic of sleep, Nicola will be joining the raft of expert mattress reviewers at Tom's Guide, helping steer readers towards the very best mattresses on the market.