The six weeks from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day fills fast with shopping, visiting, traveling, cooking, gift exchanges and particularly holiday parties. From small dinners with friends and office potlucks to the bowling team Secret Santa and the neighborhood community center festivities, there’s always more to do than time to do it. And when you want to miss none of the fun, sleep is usually the first thing sacrificed in favor of a good time. But the holidays don’t change our need for a night’s rest.
Disruptions in regular sleep patterns make us sleepy during normal wakeful times, interfering with work, driving and school. This is a nuisance at best and a hazard at worst, leaving you vulnerable to nodding off at inopportune or dangerous moments.
One disruption in normal sleep patterns can last several days. It’s almost impossible to have one late night and think “I’ll make it up” the next day by going back to your regular habits. The consequences of continuous sleep interruptions are long-lasting.
Regular sleep patterns establish a large part of life’s daily routine. When they change erratically, the day’s typical schedule isn’t typical; it feels out of sequence, leading to other non-routine behavior, such as overeating or excessive caffeine intake in order to maintain wakefulness.
If you cannot accept all the invitations, choose the ones from people who mean the most (that’s the real reason you are going, rather than for the buffet and booze) and stick to that schedule, politely refusing the pleas from those last-minute hosts throwing the showy shindig. The spur-of-the-moment events lack planning, and so will you if you attempt to wedge yet another five-hour splurge into your schedule.
Eat something light but filling, such as a salad or some raw vegetables or fresh fruit before you go. A partly-full stomach provides satiation and less temptation to swan-dive into the hors d’oeuvres tray upon arrival. Drink water to stay hydrated; overheated and overcrowded rooms tempt you to drink the nearest available liquid, and that may not be the healthiest option.
It all looks so good and your host worked so hard at preparation (or spent a fortune for catering). Look at everything before you eat anything. Take a table tour, use the smallest plate available and don’t overload it. Use a fork, even if it’s all finger food; this slows down eating so you fill up normally. If nighttime caffeine consumption is an issue, request decaffeinated beverages.
Drink up, it’s the holidays! Until all that beer, wine and liquor turns mindful living into boisterous binge eating. Treat yourself, but within limits. When attending holiday parties, try one new cocktail, sip slowly, savor it and then continue with club soda and a twist of lime. Add some fresh fruit juice to the club soda and no one will know it’s non-alcoholic.
The point of holiday parties is to celebrate with people you enjoy. Move from group to group and practice the art of good conversation. Don’t park yourself in front of the punch bowl or carving station, or you’ll end up with temptation on a plate.
Stick as close to your regular bedtime as possible, and stop the food and drink within two hours of lights out. Quality sleep on a full stomach and boozy brain is difficult, and disturbed sleep translated to a disrupted week.
Whether you’re a bit sluggish and lethargic or feel like the city’s sanitation fleet is parked on your head; don’t stay in bed. Get up and get moving! Stretch and walk, or do as much of your regular workout as possible. Eat lightly and avoid rich, high-fat foods and re-hydrate with water and green tea. The extra fluids and cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts help break down toxins in the liver and get you ready for the next party.