It’s that time of the year again: last minute deadlines at work, parties with friends, long celebratory lunches and yet another glass of something fizzy because, come on, it’s nearly the holidays!
From Melbourne Cup until the middle of January, life is one long social engagement. And with that, all our best intentions – gym-going, five daily serves of veggies and alcohol-free nights – fall away.
This year, though, sleep coach Cheryl Fingleson wants us to make one aspect of our health a priority during the party season.
‘Summer and getting a good night’s sleep don’t mix well for many of us. The nights become hot and muggy, our bodies are frequently full of sugar and alcohol, we have a lot of late nights and our body clocks can get out of synch. But this year can be different. With a bit of planning, you can have your party – and still sleep,’ she says.
Alcohol is a notorious sleep stealer. It interrupts our circadian rhythms, blocks REM sleep, makes us more prone to snoring and leads to more bathrooms trips in the middle of the night.
Solution: Stop drinking at least four hours before bedtime. For every glass of alcohol, drink two glasses of water. Stick to lower sugar alcohol, such as clear spirits. If you can’t resist a glass of fizz, stick to the good stuff and stay clear of the higher sugar sparkling wines such as Prosecco.
2. Big meals
Eating a lot of food, late into the night plays havoc with sleep. It fires up our metabolism, keeps our bodies working hard to digest food and can cause acid reflux.
Solution: Where possible, eat your heaviest meal at lunchtime so you have plenty of time to digest. Stick to a light salad or veggies and lean protein for dinner and don’t eat within two hours of going to bed.
3. Late nights
Our bodies like and do best with a routine. But when we’re going out a lot, late into the night, our sleep cycles can be affected.
Solution: Aim for fewer than two late nights a week during the party season. Stick to your usual wake up time whenever you can. Skip the lie in and if you need a nap, make it a short one: no more than 20 minutes is optimal.
4. Too many treats
Sugar and sleep don’t mix well but at this time of the year it’s easy to overindulge. Studies show too much of the yummy stuff interferes with our bodies production of melatonin which helps us feel sleepy and keeps us asleep throughout the night.
Solution: Cut back on high sugar content food in the day and build your meals around slow-release complex carbohydrates and lean proteins in the day. If you can’t resist, stop eating lollies and chocolates at least two hours before bedtime.
5. Sweaty nights
Even without the side effects of too many parties, sleeping in summer can be a challenge. Being too hot and having sweaty, uncomfortable bedding can make it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Solution: ‘At this time of the year, be prepared by doing a pre-heatwave audit of your sleeping area. Invest in a bedroom fan and some black out blinds if you can, use pure cotton sheets on your bed and pack the doona away,’ suggests Cheryl.
6. Jet lag and travel
Travelling across time-zones can be tough on our sleeping routine. Even if you don’t step on an aeroplane this summer, staying with friends or in unfamiliar surroundings can cause restless sleep.
Solution: Travel with ear-plugs or noise-cancelling earphones, a familiar blanket or your own pillow – items from home can be comforting. Beat jetlag by getting out in daylight when you arrive at your destination and stay away from alcohol, caffeine , unhealthy foods and as quickly as can to your destinations time zone.