Christmas is for spending time with the people you love and enjoying festive food and drink together. Sometimes, we forget that what we eat over this period can have a negative impact on the quality of our sleep. High sugar levels within our favourite food and drinks tend to impact our shut-eye more during the holiday season, compared to any other time of the year.
We asked Registered Nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert, what her thoughts were on yuletide eating and the impact it can have on our sleep.
“The festive period is a time of year where we are surrounded with such an abundance of foods, and with this our routine is often disturbed. Something a lot of us forget is just how much sugar is included within Christmas foods and this can impact the quality and quantity of your sleep. Many people do tend to consume more alcohol over this period, and it contains a sugar also known as polyols, which can also impact the sleep you’re getting each night.”
Alcohol affects sleep
You can find out more about how alcohol affects sleep in the podcast video below with Dr Pixie McKenna. Pixie is joined by Dr Sara McNeillis, a specialist in the diagnosis and management of sleep disorders, as well as Claire McCarten, who completely gave up alcohol and she shares the impact that’s had on her life and of course, her sleep.
How to enjoy alcohol and still sleep well
Drinking alcohol over the festive period is not uncommon, so if you’re hoping to enjoy a tipple or two and still get some good quality shut-eye, there are ways to go about this:
Make your bed and bedroom welcoming, cosy and relaxing
When you retire or get home, you’ll want to get into a clean and comfy bed with a good temperature in the room for drifting off – around 16-18 degrees centigrade. This is the temperature where you’re most likely to produce the sleepy hormone melatonin.
Drink plenty of water
While drinking alcohol, try to drink water alongside it to help keep you hydrated. It also helps to keep you feeling full and will stop you drinking too much alcohol. Find out more about the pros and cons of drinking water before bed here.
Try to stick to alcoholic drinks that are lower in sugar
Drinks that have a high sugar content are more likely to disrupt your sleep as they will keep you awake at night. Dry wines, pure spirits, and light beers are your best bet to keep sugar levels down as much as possible, according to Diabetes.co.uk.
Christmas chocolates are snow joke
Another popular Christmas treat is chocolate. High in sugar but oh-so sweet and tasty, a box or tin of these can often be devoured quickly while friends and family huddle together in the living room. A way to combat any sugary sleep detriments is to opt for dark chocolate as opposed to white or milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is lower in sugar and it also contains serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help you to relax. Find out more health benefits of dark chocolate here.
Use essential oils and plant power to wind down
After enjoying the festivities and treats, it’s normal to feel a bit wired and it can sometimes take a while to unwind be ready to drift off. Essential oils and certain flowers and plants can be used, applied or consumed to help you relax before hitting the hay.
Here are our top 4 choices:
Lavender for lullabies
A fragrant flower, lavender has long been used as a sleep aid as it’s known to have relaxing effects such as lowering the heart rate and loosening muscles. You can use the essential oil in your bath to relax before bed, apply it via a pillow spray, drink lavender tea, or place a lavender plant in your bedroom.
Jasmine for joy
This white flower is believed to help lower anxiety for less tossing and turning in bed. Jasmine essential oil is often found in massage oils so rubbing some in before going to sleep could help you drift off into a more peaceful sleep. You could also place a sweet-smelling jasmine plant in your bedroom.
Peppermint for peace
Peppermint is a green leafy plant that has a cooling and easing effect on our digestive systems, so it’s ideal to drink before bedtime after consuming a lot of food. It’s also naturally caffeine-free so won’t keep you awake at night. Dark chocolate with peppermint is also a shout, as an alternative to traditional Christmas chocolates.
Chamomile for calmness
A pretty daisy-like plant, chamomile is commonly regarded as a sleep inducer thanks to its sedating and calming effects. You can drink it in the form of tea before bed or use chamomile oil in a diffuser to inhale the relaxing aroma.
So, those are our top tips on how to eat, drink, be merry, but sleep well at Christmas!