The holidays can be an exceptionally fun and happy time—but they can also be completely overwhelming. And with so many holiday events, obligations, and to-do’s to check off of your list, it can be easy to let sleep slip to the bottom of the priority list, which will leave you feeling completely exhausted and depleted come the New Year.
So the question is, how can you prioritize getting sleep during the holidays—and make sure you’re getting the quantity and quality of rest you need to feel and function your best?
Why is prioritizing sleep during the holiday season so important?
First things first—before we jump into how to prioritize sleep during the holidays, let’s touch on why prioritizing sleep during this hectic time of year is so important to begin with.
“Although the holiday season is often thought of as a joyous time full of celebrations, it is also typically the busiest time of year—and can be very mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing for many [people],” says Vanessa Osorio, Certified Sleep Science Coach at Sleepopolis.
And all of that stress can throw you off your regular sleep routine, “leading to even more mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion,” says Osorio.
It can be a vicious cycle; you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted, so it’s hard to get the sleep you need—and because you don’t get enough sleep, you feel increasingly stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
And the longer this goes on, the more of an impact it’s going to have on your health, happiness, and well-being.
“In addition, this lack of sleep will also negatively impact your mood, cognitive performance, and immune system, increasing your risk of getting sick and making it harder for you to enjoy the holiday season all together,” says Osorio.la
So, if you want to move through the holiday season feeling rested, happy, and present and engaged with your friends and family, making sleep a priority—and ensuring you’re getting enough high-quality Zzz’s every night—is an absolute must.
But how, exactly, do you do that?
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
With so many holiday obligations, it can be easy to get thrown off your normal sleep schedule. (For example, you might be staying up late to attend holiday parties or waking up early to wrap gifts before your children wake up.)
But if you want to continue getting the rest you need to feel your best through the holidays, it’s important to stick to as consistent of a sleep schedule as you can.
“The brain needs routine to function well, and this rule is especially important when it comes to sleep,” says Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, Medical Expert at SleepingOcean.com. “Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day will help the brain stick to consistent circadian rhythms. This typically results in improved sleep quality and better rest.”
Aim to get to bed at the same time every night—and to wake up at the same time each day. If you get off for a night (for example, you stay up late for a holiday get-together and sleep in the next day), try to get right back on schedule. When you’re consistent with your sleep schedule, it typically results in getting more consistently good sleep—which then leads to feeling consistently better throughout the day.
Plan ahead to minimize holiday stressors and to-do’s
As mentioned, there’s a lot to get done during the holidays. And if you wait until the last minute to get everything, you may be tempted to sacrifice sleep in order to knock through everything on your holiday to-do list.
That’s why, if you want to prioritize sleep during the holidays, it’s important to have a plan for how you’re going to get everything done—and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to work through that plan.
For example, “it’s better to prepare the decorations and the shopping list in advance to decrease the load of the tasks when the season starts,” says Hsu. “If possible, people might also do their holiday shopping beforehand.”
The more organized you are with your holiday to-do’s (and the more time you give yourself to complete them), the less likely it is you’re going to be scrambling to get everything done as the holidays approach—and the less likely your sleep is to suffer as a result.
Say “no” when you (and your body!) need to
Sometimes, if you want to say “yes” to getting the sleep you need during the holidays, you’re going to have to say “no” to something else.
“As tempting as it is to say ‘yes’ to every party or festivity that you’re invited to [during the holiday season, it’s important to listen to your body and take the time to rest when you need to,” says Osorio.
If you’re struggling to say “no” or set boundaries around how you’re spending your time during the holidays—whether that’s bouncing from one holiday event to another or working through a seemingly endless list of holiday to-do’s—it can be helpful to focus on what you have to lose if you sacrifice sleep for your holiday obligations.
“I would encourage people to think about all the negative consequences sleep deprivation may have every time they want to sacrifice rest to finish some holiday task,” says Hsu. “This can help them delegate some things or, for instance, ditch some to-do’s that aren’t that important.”
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