Overeating and Sleep Health During the Holidays

 

The holidays are upon us! While these can be some of our favorite times of the year, the holiday season can get a little chaotic. Let’s be honest, the stress around the holidays is REAL! We know that stress can have a negative effect on our health. In this latest blog, we take a look at how overeating around the holidays can impact our sleep health and overall health. We will also share some tips, like practicing gratitude, that can help improve sleep health. 

Many of us look forward to the delicious Thanksgiving holiday each year. It is a time when we reflect on all the blessings in our lives and celebrate with friends and family. However, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in preparing for the day, that we often don’t realize how much we overeat once the food hits our plate (or plates). Overeating can impact your sleep quality causing the ever-popular Thanksgiving Day’s “sleepiness.” Below we explain the impact overeating can have on your sleep health.

Overeating and Sleep Health:

1. Sleepiness

Our circadian rhythm is responsible for our body’s natural production of hormones that promote sleep. Eating late, large meals can cause you to be sleepy because it disrupts our natural circadian rhythm (or our internal clock). Further, large meals (especially rich in carbs) our blood sugars levels spike and then drastically crash. This crash is experienced by a drastic dip in energy. Sleepiness is also caused by overeating because oxygen levels in your blood concentrate in the stomach in order to digest food. According to the Lung Institute, “the respiratory system depends on a properly functioning digestive system to provide fuel it needs to work effectively.” When we overeat many of us experience sleepiness due to the lower oxygen levels in our blood.

2. Disrupted Sleep

In addition to experiencing sleepiness during this year’s holidays, overeating can also disrupt your sleep. According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center, “the stomach produces hydrochloric acid (stomach acid to break down the food) and this acid may back up into the esophagus resulting in heartburn.” Acid reflux affects many people and causes discomfort during sleep.

Remember the circadian rhythm (our body’s internal clock)? Since the circadian rhythm is responsible for controlling your sleep cycle, when disrupted by overeating, it can be difficult to stay asleep through the night. So when you’re enjoying this year’s delicious Thanksgiving plate(s), remember that overeating can induce sleepiness and disrupt your sleep!

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the company of our friends, family, and loved ones. Overindulging in our favorite foods on Thanksgiving is to be expected. We know overeating can negatively impact our sleep health. Now, let’s share ways in which you can actually help improve your quality of sleep, despite multiple plates of food.

How to Improve Sleep Health:

1. Sunlight

There are plenty of ways we can all improve the quality of sleep we are getting each night. It can feel difficult to practice healthy habits in the midst of holiday stressors, but it doesn’t have to be. Research says, natural outdoor light can increase alertness during the day. Increasing your alertness during the day drives the body to sleep deeper at night. Make sure you prioritize spending time outdoors to soak up some natural light and support your sleep health. Stepping outside could be the perfect half-time activity this Thanksgiving.

2. Gratitude

Thanksgiving day is all about feelings of gratitude. Whether it’s gratitude for our friends, family, neighbors, or even pets, on Thanksgiving Day we all reflect upon what we cherish the most in our lives. These sensations of gratitude make us aware of the good things in our lives and can have a long-term positive effect on how we sleep. According to Psychology Today, participants who suffered from sleep disorders (such as obstructive sleep apnea) were asked to list things for which they were grateful for. The research shows that, “gratitude was related to having more positive thoughts and fewer negative ones, at bedtime.” In turn, these positive thoughts were associated with faster and deeper sleep.

The holiday season can have all kinds of effects on our sleep health. This Thanksgiving Day remember to be mindful of how many servings of food you help yourself to, as this can cause you to feel sleepy and/ or experience disrupted sleep. Despite the factors that negatively impact how we sleep, we can still achieve better sleep through natural light intake and simply being grateful for our blessings.

COVID-19 and the Holidays:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are not able to travel to see our loved ones during this year’s holiday. If you find yourself in this position, remember there are still many reasons to be thankful! Stay mindful and enjoy this special Thanksgiving Day as this can steer your focus away from any holiday or pandemic stressors.

“Be thankful you can “virtually” celebrate. Be mindful of your sleep health and proactive about supporting it.”
– Eugena Brooks, The American Sleep Apnea Associate (ASAA)

Ohio Sleep Treatment would like to say THANK YOU to all of the healthcare workers who have been risking their lives during this pandemic to help our communities. Words cannot express the gratitude and appreciation for all of our frontline providers.

Savor this year’s special moments and have a happy, healthy, more restful holiday!

 

Interested to learn more about the holidays impacting your sleep and health? Check out our Halloween article here where we explore the relationship between Halloween, scary movies, candy, and sleep quality!

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