Old fashioned pocket watch

“It’s been a hard day’s night…” but I have 22 minutes of me-time

“It’s Christmas!” you hear everywhere the whole day long except for the time you finally get back to your bed. You try to stretch your legs and relax after a long day of work or after a long Christmas shopping – and here the miracle should happen! You crave for a whole night sleep, so your body gets refreshed and you wake up all energised and ready for the next day’s challenges! 

But… during this season it is so difficult to fall asleep and wake up full of energy. The reason is that the stress level in December is high because of the rush to finish your work and get all things done to enter the new year with the ticks in front of every task you had. Another factor is Christmas parties that make you stay awake till quite late and your sleep-wake cycle is getting altered. 

Our internal clocks called circadian rhythms are ticking inside of us without us even thinking about it. The pineal gland (epiphysis cerebri, a small part of our brain) is producing melatonin, a hormone, which level is increased every day when it is getting dark outside. But with our modern life and lights everywhere including lovely Christmas decorations, our brain gets confused and then we face disturbed biorhythms that affects our wellbeing and especially, our sleep pattern.

So now let’s untangle what we can do to help our body to go through the busy season and still fully enjoy it:

1. Start your day at approximately the same time as usually (even during weekends, since our brain doesn’t have weekends and needs to have the same work schedule everyday :)) 

2. Let yourself have a short (10-15 min long) walk outside or spend time outdoors before or after lunch time. This is the best time when you can get the type of sunlight (UVB) that helps your body to produce vitamin D and cope with the winter blues. Even if the sky is covered by clouds, we can benefit from that since the amount of UVB is only approximately a half less than otherwise. Keep in mind that windows block UVB.

3. If you have a chance to take a nap, try to have it in the first half of a day, and it’s better to sleep no more than 15-20 min otherwise you’ll fall into the deep stage of sleep and eventually disrupt your upcoming night sleep. Watch out!

4. Don’t forget to set yourself in a quiet/dark mode just like your mobile phone. This will let you brain know that you are getting ready to sleep. 

5. Speaking about electronics with displays, make sure you turn on (better set it automatically) the blue light filter because the blue light will repress melatonin production in your body (check if your device has it by default or download an app, many of them are available for different operative systems)

6. Drinking alcohol can also disrupt sleep by shortening your REM part of sleep (basically, REM is important for memory consolidation and problem-solving, so consider it if you have exams), and if you opt for that then again try to have enough sleep afterwards 

7. As caffeine disrupts deep sleep and makes you wake up frequently during the night, try to have your last cup before 6 PM (be aware that even decaffeinated coffee and has some amount of caffeine).

8. Too many delicious meals on the Christmas feast? Don’t torture yourself and eat your favorites, but just reduce the portions 🙂

9. Have 22 minutes of “Me time” for a good sleep – 4 pretty familiar rituals that will make you feel less stressed and help to relax mentally a bit before sleep:

  • rinsing your face, taking a short warm shower, 7 minutes
  • reflecting on your day (preferably something you liked about it) for 5 minutes
  • making a short plan for tomorrow, 5 minutes
  • stretching before sleep (it is even possible to do it in the bed) for 5 minutes

Have a lovely Christmas time!

Written by Meruert Sarsenova


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