How to Actually Get Some Sleep During the Holidays

So you can make the most out of this season's celebrations.

Between finding the perfect gift, meeting end-of-year work deadlines, and entertaining guests, the holidays can quickly become a time of high stress and late nights. One thing that often suffers as a result? Sleep. So we turned to sleep expert Teofilo Lee-Chiong, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, for tips on how to get some shut-eye this season—and how to ensure the kids catch enough Zzs, too.


Remind Yourself Why Sleep Is Important

Photo by Roger Wright/Getty Images

You won’t be able to fully enjoy this season's shopping, cooking, and cocktail-party mingling if you’re running on a poor night's sleep. In fact, your body likely needs more rest than usual to help you be extra efficient in the coming weeks. “It’s important to keep in mind that sleeping will markedly improve your work performance, interpersonal interactions and general sense of well-being—worthy goals for the holiday season and start of the new year," Lee-Chiong says.


 Don’t Take Stress to Bed With You

It's not uncommon to become anxious before bed, especially when tomorrow's schedule feels daunting. To keep your mind from racing before falling asleep (and to help get Jingle Bell Rock out of your head), relax with a book or calming bedtime ritual, and jot down a to-do list before you head to bead, Lee-Chiong says. Oh, and stick to watching The Holiday earlier in the night. “As much as possible, disengage from your electronic devices, including television, phone, and the Internet, to ensure an easier time falling asleep.”


Avoid Drinking Too Close to Bedtime

This time of year is filled with drinking and partying (just one more glass of punch can't hurt, right?), but alcohol can wreak havoc on a good night's sleep. Try to stick to the one hour rule: allow for at least one hour after one glass of wine, one shot of whiskey, or one can of beer before a planned bedtime. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime as well, Lee-Chiong says.


Turn Off the Holiday Lights

Between visits from friends and family members, parties that extend beyond bedtime, and, of course, the anticipation of Santa, it’s easy for the kids’ bedtimes to get pushed later than normal. Parents can help their children stick to a regular sleep schedule by following one themselves, Lee-Chiong says. But there’s something else that might help. “In preparation for bedtime, consider turning off all the holiday lights in the house at bedtime—this sets the tone that the day’s merriments have ended,” he says.


Follow the “3” Rule With Naps

If getting a full night of sleep feels impossible, taking a nap—if done right—might not be a bad idea. While habitual napping shouldn't not be substituted for nighttime sleep, short naps can improve alertness (and be beneficial to your health). “Try to follow the “3” rule… not longer than 30 minutes, and not later than 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” Dr. Lee Chiong says.