We all know that the holiday season can be a stressful time of the year – it’s practically all anyone talks about! Between shopping, dealing with crowds, and making time for your family, it’s no wonder anxiety levels are at an all-time high. But one issue many people aren’t talking about is how holiday pressures can add up and harm your sleep.
The connection between stress and sleep creates a dangerous cycle that’s nearly impossible to escape. Increased stress leads to trouble sleeping, and losing sleep leads to even more stress.
There’s enough to worry about during the holidays, so the last thing you want to deal with is feeling low on energy and cranky due to sleep deprivation. No one wants to be a grinch during what’s supposed to be the happiest season of the year.
We surveyed over 1,000 adults to get to the bottom of this issue and uncover what’s really affecting our sleep during the holidays. Want to set yourself up for a better holiday season? Read on to learn what could be sabotaging your precious (and much-needed) sleep.
One of the best steps you can take to improve your mood, health, and daily energy is to ensure you get a solid eight hours of sleep each night. Consistently sleeping eight hours a night is a healthy lifestyle habit adults should follow. But during the holidays, it’s common for your sleep schedule to be thrown off wack.
According to our findings, 64 percent of the population isn’t resting up for these eight hours during the holiday season.
While eight hours is the standard number used for a good night’s sleep, everyone may not need quite as much. If you’re sleeping seven hours a night consistently, it isn’t the end of the world. But we dug deeper to see just how little sleep some people are getting, and it gets worse.
Of this group, as many as 32 percent are only sleeping as little as 3-5 hours each night around the holidays. That’s certainly not enough time for your nightly shut-eye.
Sleep Quality Suffers
If it wasn’t bad enough that people aren’t spending enough time sleeping, the quality of the sleep people do get is suffering as well.
We asked our participants to rate their holiday sleep quality on a scale of 1-10, with one being extremely poor and 10 being excellent. The average response was only a mere six out of 10.
Why Do People Lose Sleep?
So what exactly is it about the holidays that destroys people’s sleep? The top-reported individual factors include visiting family members (12 percent), the pressure to get everything done (11 percent), hosting family members (10 percent), and financial stress (nine percent).
When we tied all of these responses back to the root cause, we found that the culprits of sleep loss could be categorized into holiday pressures, family-related factors, and travel-related factors. Surprisingly, the family factors are nearly as stressful as holiday pressure in general.
Family-related factors have a large and harmful impact on sleep satisfaction. Thirty-nine percent of respondents related their sleep problems during the holidays to family-related factors such as hosting family, visiting family members, or just being around family in general. Who knew that crazy aunt of yours was really getting to your sleep?
General holiday pressures took the number one spot for causing the most stress on sleep.
Forty-three percent of people said holiday stress around finding the perfect gift, hurrying to get everything done, preparing the “Santa Clause” experience for children, and financial stress greatly affected their sleep quantity and quality. In fact, financial stress accounts for 22 percent of overall holiday stress.
The pressure to buy everyone you know a gift, and not only that but the perfect gift, adds up and takes a large toll. We took at closer look at just how impactful it can be.
The Impact of Holiday Shopping
Comparing spending habits for holiday shopping to amount of sleep lost shows that generally, the more money people spend while shopping for holiday gifts, the more their sleep suffers.
Though this trend did have one exception: those spending no money at all tend to get the least amount of sleep, perhaps due to the guilt of skipping out on the gift-giving tradition altogether.
Those getting the best sleep spend under $100 on holiday shopping. The more money people increasingly spend, the less sleep they get on average.
So what does this mean for your holiday shopping? You don’t have to let it dictate your budget, but it is helpful to be aware of the true burden of financial stress, especially during the holidays.
Many people feel inclined to stretch their budget too thin in order to purchase the best or largest amount of gifts. It turns out, the negative effects of this decision stretch beyond your wallet. Your pride in your gift-giving abilities is not worth losing your sleep over, so be conscious of your spending this season so you don’t have to sacrifice your well-being.
Does Where You Sleep Matter?
Travel-related factors didn’t have as large of an effect on sleep as general holiday pressures or the family did, but it still covered a significant amount of the reasons people aren’t sleeping as well.
Fourteen percent of respondents say their sleep suffers due to travel-related factors such as sleeping in a different environment, jet lag, and weather-related stress. The most troublesome of these travel issues was sleeping in a different environment, which accounts for a whopping 46 percent of travel and sleep stress.
That begs the question: How much does your sleeping location for the holidays really matter? First, we took a look at where people were sleeping.
A large percentage of the population stays home for the holidays (53 percent), but other places such as another family member’s home (13 percent), your childhood home (11 percent), and a friend’s home (10 percent) were popular as well.
We took a look at how the amount of sleep and quality of sleep are affected based on where people sleep. Here’s what we found.
Although the majority of people stay at home for the holidays, they are also the ones whose sleep suffers the most. Those who sleep at their homes report an average of 7.16 hours of sleep each night.
Those getting the best night’s sleep are staying at a friend’s home. This population reports an average of 8.61 hours of sleep each night during the holidays.
If you’re choosing between staying home, visiting the in-laws, or booking an Airbnb, your best bet is to find a hotel or Airbnb. Those who sleep in a hotel/Airbnb report an average of 8.16 hours of sleep each night compared to the 7.68 hours of sleep people report at their in-law’s place.
Read More: Best Mattress for an Airbnb
Sleep quality ratings also showed that sleeping at home offers the least amount of sleep satisfaction, with the average sleep quality score at a 6.03 out of 10.
Sleeping in a hotel/Airbnb offers the best sleep quality with an average score of 6.43 out of 10.
Better Holiday Sleep
In summation, there’s no secret sauce to a good night’s sleep during the holidays. In fact, it’s pretty simple. As long as you’re aware of the pressures you may feel during this time and can actively combat your stress to ensure a good night’s sleep, you’re a step ahead.
Although we found that sleeping on a hotel mattress or in an Airbnb for the holidays leads to better sleep than staying at home, you don’t have to book a place away from your family just yet. And stopping all of your holiday shopping to save the financial stress could backfire on you in the long run.
Instead, we’ll leave you with these three useful tips for getting better sleep during the holiday season.
1. Plan Ahead
Even if you operate under the belief that you perform best under pressure, don’t wait until the last minute to get everything ready for the holidays. Start shopping, preparing your home, and getting everything in order sooner rather than later.
2. Stick to Your Schedule
Hard as it may be (especially if you have children on a holiday break from school) try sticking to your normal routine. This includes your eating, drinking, exercising, and sleeping habits. Throwing one (or more) of these habits off your typical schedule can have a harmful effect. Stick to the status quo and you’ll be good to go.
3. Lose the Idea of the “Perfect” Holiday Season
More often than not, things do not go to plan. So when that happens, don’t let it get to you. If you scale back your expectations of the “perfect” holiday season then you’re less likely to stress out.
With preparation, consistency, and realistic expectations, it’s possible to survive the holiday season without sacrificing your sleep.
We surveyed over 1,000 adults on their sleep habits during the holidays to learn how sleep quality and quantity are affected in this season of the year and why. We then segmented their responses to determine the findings above.
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Ashley is a member of the editorial team at Sleep Advisor. She started as an intern in 2018 and hasn’t stopped talking about sleep since! Wearer of many hats here at the office, you can find Ashley working on a multitude of things. She’s personally unboxed, tested, and reviewed a large portion of the mattresses you’ll find reviews for here on the site. She’s also spent countless hours researching and writing about all aspects of sleep, including why the mattress you sleep on matters, what our dreams mean, and even diving into the science behind why women’s sleep suffers during PMS. Ashley has been featured across the web representing Sleep Advisor on Chicago Tribune, NY Daily News, and various health and wellness sites promoting better sleeping habits.
Education & Credentials
- Certified Sleep Science Coach