It’s the most wonderful time of the year, apparently. So why do we already feel so damn tired? A sleep expert shares her advice on Christmas insomnia.
Christmas is great – we reconnect with friends and family, let our hair down after a stressful year and enjoy a never-ending indulgent feasts and party food. But it can also be incredibly overwhelming and stressful. Financial worries, tiredness from partying and feeling a bit sluggish all add to the mix. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that this can all have a huge impact on our sleep. And for the 16 million insomniacs out there in the UK, this probably isn’t the season to be too jolly.
It’s little wonder that people are feeling the festive burnout.
Just last month, one of the biggest sleep studies to date found just how dangerous sleep deprivation can be. It reported that sleep deprivation doubles the chances of making placekeeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention. So with that in mind, what can we do to tackle insomnia – especially during the stressful festive season?
Kathryn Pinkham, NHS insomnia specialist and founder of The Insomnia Clinic, has shared some of the biggest reasons for insomnia around Christmas time, along with tips on how to combat sleepless nights.
1. Increased alcohol intake
We all like to enjoy a few more drinks over Christmas time, and people often start to rely on a night cap as it can act as a sedative. However, too much alcohol will affect the quality of the sleep you get. My advice is to try and stop drinking an hour or so (more if you can) before bedtime so that you are not going to bed under the influence. Try and drink some water during this time too, as this will make you less likely to wake from dehydration as the affects of the alcohol wear off.
2. Disruption to regular sleep patterns
Festive meals, parties and drinks can massively disrupt regular sleep patterns. But where possible, try sticking to a regular sleep schedule. The more consistent you are with your sleep and wake times, the better the quality of your sleep will be. If you have a late night then still get up at your normal time. This will ensure that you continue to build up a strong drive to sleep well the next night. It can be tempting to have lots of lie ins, but this can result in your body clock getting out of sync, leaving you more susceptible to poor sleep.
3. Back-to-back social plans
Being busy all the time is not only physically exhausting but if our minds are constantly full then this leaves us mentally exhausted too. We then start to feel we need more sleep to combat the tiredness, but actually we can also get an energy boost in other ways. Regularly stop and breathe, clear your mind, get some fresh air and exercise as this will help you to sleep better at night but also feel more refreshed during the day.
4. Relying on sleeping pills
Don’t take sleeping pills as a reaction to not sleeping as this can leave you feeling groggy when you wake up. If you have been prescribed them, only take them one hour before bed rather than in the middle of the night. Ultimately, sleeping pills are only a short term solution so instead follow a CBT for insomnia programme to fix your sleep problem for good.
5. Stressing over end-of-year work deadlines
Try not to go to bed with unfinished business on your mind. Your thoughts will race and your sleep is likely to suffer so get into the habit of writing down your worries before you go to bed.
Of course, anyone who has trouble sleeping should stick to this advice throughout the year. But it’s important to remind yourself that, despite all the Christmas madness, your health and happiness is still the greatest gift you can give yourself.