For many, Christmas is a time to relax and celebrate. But, for those in the hospitality sector, the festive season is one of the busiest times of the year. With the British public spending more time enjoying pub meals, drinks out in bars, and overnight stays in hotels and inns, hospitality staff can work up to an extra 28 hours over the festive season on just 5–6 hours of sleep a night — that’s two hours less than the recommended amount (Matthew Clark).
Sleep is important for your health and wellbeing, but it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest over the busy Christmas period. To help, I’ll be giving you my top tips below, so you can benefit from a better quality of sleep and improved health and wellbeing.
Your body uses the light from the sun, as well as other factors like your diet, to know when it needs to be awake and when to fall asleep. This is called your circadian rhythm. By waking up at the same time each morning and going to bed at the same time every night, you’re helping to regulate your circadian rhythm, meaning you’ll feel awake during the day and sleepy in the evening.
However, when working long hours over the festive season, you’ll likely be going to bed at a different time to usual, which will throw your sleep cycle out of sync. Although it might be difficult to go to bed early each night, try to stick to the same sleep schedule. This is easier to do if you work regular hours and can go to bed at the same time each night. But, if you’ll be working irregular shifts, focus more on how long you’re sleeping for. Although you’ll be going to bed at a different time each evening, even just sleeping for the same length of time can help to keep you feeling rested.
If going to sleep at a different time makes it difficult to drift off, you could incorporate some relaxing, pre-bedtime activities into your routine, like taking a warm bath, having a soothing herbal tea or reading a book. These can help you unwind and relax, and you’ll find it easier to fall asleep as a result.
When you climb into bed after a long working day, you don’t want to be using up your precious sleeping hours tossing and turning before you drift off. That’s why you’ll want to make your bedroom the perfect sleep environment.
The Sleep Council describe the perfect bedroom as dark, quiet, free of electronic devices, and between 16–18°C. You’ll also want to make sure that your mattress is comfortable and supporting you in all the right places around your hips, shoulders and back. If not, it might be time to switch out your old mattress for a new one or invest in a mattress topper.
Christmas is a time for overindulging and, when you’re working shifts in a restaurant, pub or bar, it’s likely that you’ll be eating heavy, rich foods at irregular times throughout the day. But this can have a negative impact on your circadian rhythm, as your body will find it difficult to understand your routine. So, you should aim to eat at the same times each day if you can, as this will help to regulate your sleep cycle.
You might also be tempted to turn to caffeine to power you through your shifts. But, while your late-night coffee might keep you feeling awake and energised at work, the effects can last even after you’ve returned home and climbed into bed. Instead, try to avoid caffeine at least six hours before hitting the hay, and look to protein-rich foods like nuts, yoghurt and eggs, or vitamin packed foods like bananas and oranges, to give you a natural energy boost without keeping you awake.
Over the busy Christmas period, your sleep health can take a backseat, and your happiness can suffer as a result. But, by following the tips in this guide, you can help get a better night’s rest to help you power through the festive rush.