The party season is fast-approaching and, much like Brenda in Accounts and her voracious lust for Christmas party karaoke, there is no stopping it.
With the exception of those sensible souls who choose to abstain, it’s a fairly safe bet that – from November onwards – we’ll all be drinking a tad too much. And why not? We work hard and we deserve a little fun on the run up the Christmas. But what are all these 2am finishes and mulled wine benders doing to our health? More specifically, what are they doing to our quality of sleep?
Well, they don’t help. When we consume alcohol before bed, the quality of our sleep is compromised. Initially, booze acts as a stimulant, flooding the brain with zippy little endorphins and feel-good chemicals. As the buzz wears off, however, it begins to act as a sedative, causing us to feel tired.
Drinking close to bedtime also severely reduces Rapid Eye Movement (REM), which is the dream-like state we fall into about 90 minutes after we fall asleep, thought to be very restorative. Disruptions to REM cause drowsiness and poor concentration, so while it might feel like that final nightcap has triggered a deep slumber, it’s actually only knocked you out for the first half of the night, leaving the second half of the night’s sleep disturbed and fitful. This all results in feeling drained and broken the following day.
So, what’s the answer? Abstain entirely? Stay in all December? Doesn’t sound like much fun. Luckily, we’ve cooked up five handy tips on how to emerge from the party season mostly unscathed and as well-rested as possible.
1. Stick to your routine
Even if you’ve staggered in at 2am, try not to stay in bed until 4pm. We know it’s tempting, but it’ll make you feel even worse. If you generally rise at 8am, try to do so even after a night’s carousing. Your body likes routine and it’s important to stay consistent and reinforce your sleep-wake cycle. Those of you with children won’t be permitted a lie-in anyway...
2. Resist the siren song of caffeine
If you’re going to hit the Prosecco, try not to hit the Espressos as well. Caffeine can block your brain’s A1 receptor (which promotes sleepiness when activated) thereby increasing alertness but subsequently interfering with your sleep. Hot milky drinks or herbal teas are a better bet for pre-bedtime beverages.
3. Call it quits
Not entirely, of course. But if it gets to 11pm and the floor is spinning, try to get yourself a pint of water or three and call it a night on the vodka cranberries. The golden rule of boozing mid-week? Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
4. No late night nibbles
Much like the caffeine, it can be hard to resist late-night binging. But while that fast-food pitstop on the way home might seem like an inspired plan, high carb or sugar-laden foods can cause your blood sugar to spike or plummet which will disrupt your sleep. Similarly, consumption of salty foods will more than likely cause you to wake suddenly in the night with a mouth like the Sahara, desperate for a glass of water. We’ve all been there.
5. Take the night off
It’s called the silly season for a reason. The weeks of December are clogged with work and social engagements, all seemingly essential and unmissable. But take a long, hard look at your diary and ruthlessly cut one party or after-work drinks a week and give yourself that night to spend indoors, feet up, sipping something warm and herbal. Bed by 9pm sharp.