Whether it’s a child listening out for the sound of reindeer hooves on a roof or adults stressing about cooking dinner and traveling to visit relatives, Christmas Eve can be defined by sleeplessness.
Christmas Eve is among the busiest days of the year, with countless last-minute plans needing to be made and finalized, so it’s easy to grow overwhelmed and feel overtired.
It’s seldom a silent night, as you may hear church bells, excited children, and festive partygoers.
Eating and drinking habits change around the holidays. Even people who rarely drink may enjoy a tipple on Christmas Eve, and you may eat candy, cookies, and cake. These habits can disrupt your sleep.
Ensure you address your needs on Christmas Eve, taking breaks to ensure you don’t burn out. Write down anything worrying you with potential solutions.
Don’t force yourself to sleep on Christmas Eve. If you try to stay awake without coffee or too much time in front of the TV, you’ll eventually fall asleep once your mind stops racing.
Why Can’t I Sleep on Christmas Eve?
Many of us have memories of childhood Christmases, watching the clock seemingly all night, waiting for morning to arrive.
While the magic of Christmas starts to subside as we reach adulthood, it’s still quite common to struggle to sleep on December 24th.
There are many possible explanations, and understanding why you find rest so elusive on Christmas Eve will help you overcome this seasonal insomnia.
Here are the most common explanations:
Think of our bodies and brains as akin to computer code. When programmed correctly, everything functions well. If just one line is incorrect, everything goes wrong.
When exhausted, our circadian rhythms may have bypassed the instinctive desire to sleep.
If you have been running around all day making preparations for Christmas Day and had no time to yourself, you’re unlikely to fall asleep immediately.
While we usually extol the virtues of a traditional sleep-wake cycle, heading to bed and waking up at the same time each day, you may need to set aside an additional hour devoid of duties to relax.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Christmas is a time of year when we allow ourselves to give in to our excesses and indulgences. Careful diets are often forgotten in favor of enjoying festive cookies, cakes, and drinks.
Be careful about how much fat and sugar you intake. You may have no time to sit down for a meal, so you’ll sustain yourself on junk food throughout the day.
Constant sugar intake will lead to fluctuating energy levels, so you may flag during the afternoon and get an energy boost at night.
Limit how much alcohol you drink. Eggnog may feel like the ideal way to usher in the Christmas spirit, but alcohol impacts your ability to sleep if consumed too close to bedtime.
Most people associate Christmas’s excitement with children anticipating Santa Claus’s arrival, but adults can be just as enthusiastic. Christmas is a time to make memories, and you may find yourself counting the moments until this opportunity arises.
You may be lying in bed thinking about the looks on your children’s faces when they see the gifts you bought them or how much you’re looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family you have not seen for some time.
It can also be difficult not to succumb to the season’s spirit. Joviality and goodwill frequently fill the air during the holiday season, and it takes a hard heart not to begin feeling excited.
Andy Williams memorably claimed that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year” in a celebrated festive song but neglected to mention that it can also be one of the most stressful days.
Christmas Day will likely be extremely busy, and you’ll have expectations and responsibilities. Your mind will race as you consider these events, and the human brain is hardwired toward negativity bias.
Some worries that may enter your thoughts as you prepare for bed include the following:
- What if your spouse or children dislike the gifts you chose for them?
- Have you remembered to buy all the food required for a Christmas dinner?
- Did you overspend this month and risk financial hardship in the new year?
- Can your extended family be trusted to get along without arguing throughout the day?
- What if the weather is bad and you can’t complete your travel plans?
These intrusive thoughts will be unwelcome but are to be expected ahead of any significant event.
Christmas Eve is among the noisiest evenings of the year, which may interrupt your sleep plans. Some of the sounds you may need to overcome throughout this night include:
- Excited children are chattering and running through the house.
- Festive partygoers shouting and conversing in the street outside.
- Loud music is played by neighbors throwing a seasonal celebration.
- Church bells at midnight and beyond during a Midnight Mass or similar service.
If you’re a light sleeper, this seemingly unending din can cause frustration and keep you awake. Attempt to mask these noises by wearing earplugs, using a white noise machine, or listening to music.
How Do I Calm Down Before Christmas?
The festive season provokes dual sensations of anticipation and anxiety, which limit our ability to sleep.
No matter how much we tell ourselves it’s just another night, Christmas Eve has a unique atmosphere. This makes learning how to sleep when Christmas is tomorrow especially important.
You can utilize various techniques to increase your chances of a night of rest. These include:
Wake Up Early on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve will almost certainly be a busy day, so wake up early to complete all your tasks. Rising early and staying awake all day also increases the likelihood of sleeping through the night.
Setting an alarm at the usual time may be okay if you don’t hit the snooze button and delay your attempts to get out of bed. Don’t succumb to the temptation to sleep longer than usual, as you’re not scheduled to work.
Make To-Do Lists
You’ll find it easier to sleep on Christmas Eve and enjoy Christmas Day when you have control. Write down everything ahead of you, assessing what you need to do and when you have enough time.
Start the day with this list, or create it on December 23rd. Work steadily through everything you need, setting realistic targets. That way, you can go to bed knowing you’ve done everything.
Repeat this process on Christmas Eve night. Write down all you need to do on Christmas Day to enjoy the day, and if necessary, note down solutions to problems that may arise so you feel well-prepared.
Take Care of Your Needs
Many adults spend Christmas Eve running after others, smoothing over any concerns about the following day. This is admirable, but don’t forget to focus on your needs.
Don’t fill your body with caffeine so you can keep going, moving from one responsibility to the next, and don’t spend so much time preparing for what is to happen next that you can’t enjoy the moment.
Take regular breaks to avoid growing overtired and burning out.
Exercise, even if stretching your legs and getting some fresh air by walking around the backyard, and set time aside to relax, especially for the hour before bed when you practice sleep hygiene.
Dim the Lights
As Christmas falls in mid-winter, it’ll likely be dark outside by the late afternoon. As you continue hustling to complete the tasks on your to-do list, you must maintain a steady stream of artificial light.
Bright illumination will reset your circadian rhythms and trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This may help you stay energized, but it’ll make sleeping harder when you eventually finish your duties.
Dim the lights as the day and night progress. One of the great things about Christmas is you’ll have a range of low-lighting decorating the home, so there may be no need to turn on bright overhead lights.
Accept Things You Can’t Change
Everybody dreams of the perfect Christmas day, but some things will be beyond your control.
If there’s a blizzard, travel plans may be disrupted. If the boiler breaks and there’s no hot water, plumbers won’t be working. If you forget food, most stores will be closed.
Try to embrace a sense of inner zen, appreciating that life will unfold no matter what you do.
Take a deep breath, enjoy each moment, and understand that you’ll get through this day. Any mishaps will eventually become a funny family anecdote.
Do Not Force Sleep
Don’t attempt to force yourself to sleep. The more you convince yourself that you need to rest, the harder you’ll find it to doze off. Instead, attempt to stay awake by engaging in low-intensity activities.
According to Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, this is called paradoxical intention. By confronting what we fear, we’re likelier to succumb to sleep.
Choose ways of remaining awake for longer. Avoid watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling on your cellphone if possible. While watching It’s a Wonderful Life will get you in a festive mood, the blue light emitted by screens disrupts the ability to sleep.
Reading a book is the ideal way to start to sleep. Breathe deeply, stretch periodically, and allow yourself to get lost in a story. If the book isn’t interesting enough to grip your imagination, so much the better.
Christmas Eve is among the most challenging nights of the year to sleep. If you can find a way to relax and rest, you’re likelier to enjoy what could be the most magical day of the year.