With the holiday season underway it’s important to have a plan for maintaining optimal health during this particularly indulgent time of year. The majority of unhealthy holiday activities include the excessive intake of food and alcohol, and lack of exercise. Let’s examine how to best offset these activities to make sure you don’t throw off your sleep schedule this holiday season and are able to enjoy your time with family and friends to the fullest.
Avoid the “Saving Calories” Approach
It is common for people to miss meals during the holiday season by trying to save their appetite for a larger meal later in the day, usually dinner. Their thought is that by not eating earlier in the day they can splurge at their meal later in the day, thus consuming the same number of calories that they normally would intake. This may seem like a good strategy, but people often end up gorging themselves during their large meal, and usually with festive foods high in calories such as pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole. People end up having a much higher calorie intake than usual for the day, that along with the foods high in sugar causes them to crash. It is best to eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks during the day, and you can still be mindful of leaving a little extra room for some indulgences later on.
Keep Your Portions Reasonable and Stop When You’re Full
When you’re sitting in front of your mom’s delicious holiday feast it can be difficult to resist. While it may taste incredible, partaking in especially large meals makes it harder for your body to digest, causing difficulty falling asleep when it’s time to go to bed. A typical meal takes one to three hours to digest, but a large meal can take up to 12 hours. Since your body has to work harder to digest a large meal, it can increase the likelihood of drowsiness. Overeating can be detrimental to your body, causing indigestion, gas, bloating, and gallbladder pain which can severely disrupt your sleep cycle.
If you want to eat a large meal you should have it early, so that your body doesn’t disturb you as it digests. Leave at least a few hours in between from the time you finish your meal until the time you plan on sleeping. If you go to bed immediately after eating, you are more likely to experience heartburn. It is beneficial to take a walk after dinner, which helps control blood sugar and makes for better digestion.
Limit Your Cocktails and Caffeine
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of drinking during the holidays, sometimes to excess. We encourage fun and celebrations, but by drinking responsibly your health and your sleep will both benefit. It is true that alcohol can give a feeling of drowsiness which makes one think that they will sleep better, but alcohol actually has the opposite effect. Although alcohol will make you sleepy at first, after a few hours it can cause you to awaken and make it difficult to return to sleep. Your sleep won’t feel as well rested under the influence of alcohol as it impedes you from entering deep sleep, which is necessary to rejuvenate the mind and body.
Caffeine has similar effects to alcohol and also disturbs sleep, so if you have trouble sleeping it is best to also avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate before hitting the sack. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it is best to avoid it for at least eight hours before going to bed. To make sure you’re staying on top of your sleep health this holiday season, be sure to regularly monitor your sleep. Learn more about monitoring your sleep habits with Somnology.