‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house… the creatures were stirring!
The lead-up to Christmas is full of festive decorations as you begin to prepare the household for the upcoming celebrations. And, while you may think it’s the exciting anticipation of Jolly St Nick’s visit that is keeping you up at night, our sleep experts reveal that it may actually be the new festive additions to your home that are impacting your sleeping pattern.
It’s not a new concept that each of the five senses can significantly impact the quality of sleep you get a night. At Christmas, decorating your home provides your senses with new experiences that are designed to bring joy and happiness, however, the changes to your surroundings can, instead, interrupt your sleep pattern. Let’s take a look at how.
The Impact of Christmas Decorations on Sleep
Christmas welcomes an abundance of fairy lights of all shapes, colours and brightness as a signal of celebration. However, excessive exposure to light can have an effect on your sleep quality.
Dr Sophie Bostock says, “Light exposure in the hours before we get into bed, and during the night, can interfere with sleep quality, and our ability to recover overnight. Even when we have our eyes closed, recent research has shown that ambient light in our bedrooms can keep us in a lighter stage of sleep, and disturb our metabolism the next day (Xu et al 2023). Outdoor light pollution has also been linked to higher rates of mental health disorders, poor sleep and obesity (Bozejko et al 2023).
Light at night disrupts our natural circadian rhythms, or body clocks, which have evolved for us to rest at night. For this reason, I’d recommend switching Christmas lights off before you go to sleep. If light comes in through the window, fit blackout blinds or wear an eye mask.”
In fact, the excess light can even impact your health, “Healthy adults who slept in a room with a dim light left on all night experienced a higher heart rate during the night than when they slept in darkness. This suggests that light at night may prevent us from getting into a deep state of relaxation. When the light was kept on, insulin resistance was significantly higher, suggesting that volunteers were less effective at managing their blood sugar the next day (Mason et al 2022).
An American study earlier this year asked over 500 adults aged 63-84 to wear a watch to measure their sleep timings and light exposure for a week. Those exposed to light at night were twice as likely to have diabetes as those who slept in the dark. Light at night was also associated with obesity and hypertension (Kim et al 2023)”
If you’re opting for a real tree in your home then you’ll also be more vulnerable to potential allergies, just as you would be outside. If you’re prone to hay fever or other seasonal allergies then this could be impacting your sleep.
For eleven months of the year, your Christmas decorations have been stored away meaning there’s a good chance they’ve collected some dust, too. Dust mites can cause allergic reactions, and irritate your sinuses, which makes a peaceful night of sleeping difficult.
According to our resident sleep expert, Dr Sophie Bostock, “Sleep can be impacted by allergies in both obvious and hidden ways. Firstly, symptoms such as itchy eyes, a runny nose, wheezing or sneezing can actively interfere with the process of falling asleep. If you’re in pain, or getting frustrated by the discomfort, it’s naturally very difficult to relax and fall asleep.
However, even when you’re fast asleep, allergies could still be disrupting sleep quality.
When we have an allergic reaction, our nasal passages become inflamed and congested. This congestion narrows the airways, which can cause wheezing and snoring. Breathlessness has been linked to higher levels of arousal during sleep – in other words, you’re more likely to have broken sleep, or to wake up feeling fatigued (McKeown et al 2021).”
How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep This Christmas
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you go full Grinch mode this Christmas to protect your sleep. But, there are some small ways you can reduce the negative effects of your Christmas decorations on your sleep, so you can ensure you get your full eight hours to enjoy the festivities all season long.
Moderation: Try not to go too ‘Deck The Halls’ this season and instead opt for a moderate amount of Christmas lights. Choose static lights to avoid the flashing disturbances on your eyes and instead use your lighting to create a warm ambience that will help you relax.
Dim Lighting: If you want to have Christmas decorations in your bedroom try and choose dimmable ones so you can signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down.
Keep Christmas Trees Out of the Bedroom: If you’re prone to allergies, keep any real Christmas trees away from your bedroom. Or, if a tree in your bedroom is a must, go for a fake one! That way you can revel in the traditions without allergy issues.
Clean Your Decorations: The other eleven months of the year your Christmas decorations are not being used gives them plenty of time to build up some dust. Clean them thoroughly before you put them around the house to eliminate any potential dust allergies they could set off.
Sleep is important all year round, but it’s especially important during the festive period. It’s normal for social plans to ramp up, commitments to be higher and, at the same time, stress levels can increase, too. The more sleep, the more prepared you are to take on your plans and get the most enjoyment out of the Christmas season.