Health

Sleep Performance: How To Keep Your Holiday Season Happy (And Not Terrible)

A happy family doing some shopping during the happy holidays

Common Holiday “Habits” | How Holiday Habits Make for Terrible Holidays | Sleep Performance | How Our Habits Affect Sleep Performance | How To Keep the Holidays HappyGo To Bed EMPTY™ | Final Thoughts

For far too many people, the holiday season starts out happy but ends up horrible. Why does it happen, and what can you do to prevent it from happening to you? Learn these three horrible holiday “habits” and my simple strategy you can use to keep the “happy” in your holidays. 

If you’re like most people, the holiday season is a happy time—at least at the beginning. Soon, feelings of tiredness set in, stress shoots up, and the number on the scale climbs up, too. 

Why does this happen to so many people at this joyous time of year? Surprisingly, the reason the holiday season is happy is the same reason it can become horrible. It’s that “Eat, drink, and be merry” sentiment and the habits that go with it. 

The Three Common Holiday “Habits”

"Keep the happy in happy holiday" quote

1. We Eat

We eat because there is an overabundance of food. We tend to eat too much, and we tend to eat too often. And let’s be honest…no one’s reaching for a piece of Romaine lettuce when there’s a piece of Red Velvet cake sitting there looking delicious! 

With the frequency of eating and the rich ingredients, it’s easy to trigger rapid weight gain and even food sensitivities (which are much more common than are realized).

2. We Drink

We drink because there is an overabundance of beverages. We drink more, including at night, as we socialize at holiday parties. Of course, the alcohol in that spiked eggnog can pack a wallop, but so can that virgin cranberry cocktail. The reason? Any beverage sets you up for dehydration—unless it’s plain water.

3. We Merry

We are merry in theory, at least, because there is an overabundance of activity. There’s the office holiday party, the night out with old college friends, the troupe of relatives in town—and also the shopping, cooking, baking, volunteering, you name it(!) that comes with the holiday season. It’s a non-stop pace, and it can easily become overwhelming and stressful.

Anyone of these three holiday habits can take the “happy” out of your holiday season. But in combination, they can make your holidays horrible. Here’s why.

How Do Our Holiday Habits Make the Holidays Horrible?

Our modern Eat, Drink and be Merry on steroids habits can make your holiday season horrible for one specific reason: They lower your sleep performance. 

Now, if you’re thinking, “I make sure I get 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep no matter what,” that’s great. But it’s important to remember this: Sleep is not a numbers game. So we’re not talking about sleep; we’re talking about sleep performance

Tara Clancy's quote on Sleep Performance

What is Sleep Performance?

Simply put, sleep performance refers to the work your brain does to repair and recharge itself and your body. It is a precise process and must occur within each 24-hour cycle. This process takes an average of eight hours for humans, and it must be done without disruption to deliver full benefit.

Think of it like a cell phone. You put your phone on the charger overnight, so you have a fully charged battery for the day. But what happens when you forget to charge it? Before long, that partially charged battery is seriously drained, and the phone is in low-power mode. The capacity is there, but you just don’t have the power to access it. 

So let’s look at how each habit affects sleep performance.

How Do the Three Holiday Habits Affect Sleep Performance?

  1. Food: When you fall asleep, and you’re still digesting that scrumptious Red Velvet cake, your brain delays its sleep work until digestion is done. And if it happens to be the food you’re sensitive to, it can take even longer. So even if you get 8 hours of sleep, your brain does not get to do 8 hours of sleep work. And you won’t feel as powered up when you wake up or through your day.
  2. Beverages: If your bladder is filling when you’re going to sleep, it may trigger you to get up to go in the middle of the night. Even if you fall back asleep, waking up to go is still a problem. Getting pulled up to full wakefulness means your brain has stopped doing its sleep work. 
  3. Activity: If your mind is buzzing because of all you’ve done and all you still have to do, you may have trouble falling asleep. And until you fall asleep, your brain can’t begin its sleep work! 

And the catch-22 is that having a sleep performance problem can lead us to more of the very things that are driving the sleep performance problem in the first place: eating too much, drinking too much, and doing too much—until we are running on empty.

What Can You Do To Keep the Holidays Happy? 

What can you do to keep the holidays happy? Adopt a new sentiment: SLEEP AND BE MERRY!

Of course, that begs the question: How can you sleep with all that merry-making??

Here’s what I advise my clients to do:  Go To Bed EMPTY™

And while that may sound awful, my clients are full of awe at how effective it is. And better yet, it’s easy! 

An illustration on "go to bed EMPTY" formula

Go To Bed EMPTY™ with my 3-2-1 EMPTY! Strategy.

3 hours before bed —Finish your last meal. This ensures digestion is done, and you go to bed with an empty stomach.

2 hours before bed — Finish your last beverage. (And make it a glass of water!) This way, your body has time to process the liquid and empty it in your last tinkle before bed.

1 hour before bed — Finish your last task and push forward anything you didn’t do onto tomorrow’s TO DO list to empty your brain.

Tip: Many of my clients prefer using a physical notepad for this so they can literally release the thoughts from their heads and onto the paper. Try it! 

Then let relaxation set in by doing your favorite bedtime routines. 

Keeping It Real

Of course, you won’t be able to Go To Bed EMPTY™ every night. But if you do it most nights and you’re deliberate on the nights you can’t, you’ll have more nights of preserving your sleep performance, and “the more, the merrier!”

Final Thoughts

Make it a priority to Go To Bed EMPTY™ using my 3-2-1 EMPTY! Strategy. It is the key holiday strategy to maintain and improve your sleep performance throughout the holiday season. When you maintain your sleep performance, you give yourself what you need to keep the “happy” during the holiday season!


Headshot of Tara A Clancy

About the Author

Tara A. Clancy, M.A., is a High-Performance Sleep™ Strategist, and she is on a mission to get people to stop thinking about sleep and start thinking about sleep performance. 

Tara is the creator of the cutting-edge Sleep Performance Program, an award-winning speaker, and the host of The Counterfeit Sleep® Podcast. When she’s not inspiring audiences with lasting solutions for today’s top problems, Tara loves rock climbing, live comedy, and getting High-Performance Sleep™!