Sponsored by
What's Working: Purpose + Profit

How All That Holiday Eating Can Affect Your Sleep

From Thanksgiving feasts to New Year’s celebrations, the holiday season is all about indulgence. Whether it’s that extra piece of pumpkin pie or another round of champagne, it can be hard to resist excessively eating and drinking during the festivities. While most people are aware that indulging at this time of year can take a toll on the waistline, it can impact you in other ways too — like your quality of sleep.

Holiday eating habits along with your favorite holiday foods have the potential to negatively affect your rest. We know that no one wants to lose sleep during this busy time of year, so we partnered with Sleep Number to talk to some diet experts to find out the best tips for dealing with those heavy holiday meals so you can get a good night’s sleep.

Stay Away From “Saving Calories”

Starving yourself during the day might seem like a good idea when you are planning to overeat later on, but showing up to a meal on an empty stomach can result in less self-control over your food choices. This can lead to cravings for things like simple carbs (found in festive foods like pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole), which can cause a sugar high and eventual crash.

“Eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks that day, you can still be mindful of building in room for indulgences later on,” says Jessica Katz, a clinical nutritionist and dietician. “Eat healthfully and lightly (focus on lean protein and high fiber plant-based foods and veggies), so that you go into the meal with greater control over your food choices.”

Keep Your Portions Small

When you are sitting in front of a delicious holiday feast, it can be hard to resist piling food onto your plate. While it tastes good, indulging in large meals can make it harder for your body to digest, which means you may have trouble getting to sleep later on.

“Indigestion and gas — yes I said that — and the need to unbutton your now too tight pants are the most common symptoms of eating a Thanksgiving feast,” says Suzanne Jezek-Arriaga, a nutrition and holistic health coach and the author of the book, Nourish to Flourish. “The average meal takes one to three hours to digest, but a large meal can take up to eight to 12 hours. Your body has to work harder to digest a big meal, which can also raise the risk for gallbladder pain and drowsiness.”

Stop When You’re Full

When you get in a pattern of overeating it can feel like that second-serving won’t make a difference, but eating more than you should can have consequences on your body and your sleep.

“After you have gobbled down your dinner, you might be tempted to say ‘I already ate too much. So, why not have the pie too?’ It does make a difference if you stop when you’re full. You can always enjoy that piece of pumpkin pie tomorrow,” Jezek-Arriaga explains of the ways your body’s reaction can disrupt sleep. “Overeating and drinking could wreak havoc on your body, possibly causing indigestion, gas, bloating, and even gallbladder pain and drowsiness.”

Timing is Everything

If you want to eat a large meal, you will at least want to do it early, so that your body won’t keep you up as it digests.

“Timing can affect digestion of a large meal, and in turn, your quality of sleep,” says Katz. “Leave a few hours between the meal and hitting the hay.”

If you lie down immediately after eating, it is more likely that you will experience heartburn. Dr. Katz recommends taking a post-dinner walk, which will help control blood sugar and promote easier digestion.

Limit Cocktails and Caffeine

Having a couple drinks before bed might seem like it will help you doze off, but it can actually cause sleep disturbances that will keep you awake.

“It’s true a couple of glasses of wine can make you sleepy, however after a few hours alcohol can cause you to awaken, and not sleep as soundly,” says Jezek-Arriaga. “Plus, it prevents you from achieving deep sleep, which is necessary to refresh and rejuvenate the body.”

Caffeine can have a similar effect, so it’s important to remember that the stimulant isn’t only found in coffee drinks.

“If you have trouble sleeping avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate before you hit the sheets,” adds Jezek-Arriaga. “Sensitive people should stop drinking caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime.”

Quality sleep is essential to staying happy and healthy this holiday. Sleep Number® beds are designed with that in mind. You can adjust each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support to create your perfect Sleep Number® setting. Plus, when you add SleepIQ® technology, you’ll always be informed of how to get your best possible sleep.