10 Ways to Survive the Holidays Without Losing Sleep

Planning ahead can help you enjoy your holiday preparations as well as the main events without cutting into your sleep.

By Andrea Pisani Babich

It starts about this time every year. You sense it coming like a rogue wave on the horizon, rumbling toward you to the tune of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Christmas shopping. Wrapping presents. Holiday decorations. House cleaning. Office parties. Baking cookies. House guests. Special meals. Tree trimming. Christmas concerts. Christmas caroling. Dinner parties. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, for sure. And the busiest.

Holiday Sleep Snatchers

All of these activities on top of your already full schedule mean something has to give. And that something is often your sleep. It’s hard to get your recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night when you’re trying to create the perfect holiday experience for your family and friends plus keep up with your normal household chores. Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean there’s a break from laundry, daily meal prep and clean-up, groceries to haul in, children to drive to their activities, homework to help with, and the list goes on.

What’s a hostess trying to be the mostest to do? First and foremost, preserve your sleep schedule at all costs! A tired hostess is a cranky hostess, and no one enjoys visiting a crank. Skimping on your sleep will not only set you up for a physical and mental slump, it will add to stress, which can further cut into your already threatened peaceful sleep. You want to be able to enjoy your holidays, too, even while hosting possibly the biggest event of the year.

Sound impossible? It’s not. You just need to plan ahead and spread out the pain, starting in November. Putting in a little extra effort now will save you from having to muster enormous amounts of efforts in a compressed time period later on, closer to and during the holidays. Save yourself! Remember, taking a hiatus from your Big Bang Theory marathon (or at least cutting it short) will reap rewards later on and allow you to enjoy the holidays without losing sleep over them.

How to Keep the Holidays from Keeping You Up at Night

The key to preparing for the holidays without cutting into your shut-eye is to prioritize tasks in their appropriate time slots. You can’t cook an entire Thanksgiving meal ahead of time, but you can do other things that will give you the time to cook your meal without other distractions.

Here are 10 ways to keep your holiday preparations from destroying your sleep schedule.

1. Now is a good time to prepare your home for the holidays.

That means before you bring anything else into the house (like presents, food, decorations), you should clear a space and keep it clean.

Clean out the refrigerator and pantry. Even if you don’t plan to entertain, you will most likely be preparing holiday food and goodies that will need to be stored along with your normal supplies. Especially important is to make room in your freezer so you can prepare and freeze some meals ahead of time whenever you can. (See #6.)

Clear the house of clutter. Make room for Christmas decorations by storing picture frames, vases, and other knick-knacks you normally display. Simply adding to your normal decor will make it harder to keep your house clean, and it will just look cluttered instead of decorated.

Don’t forget to clear out your closets for guests, especially in your entryway and guest room(s). Collect old clothes, boots, and shoes that no one wears anymore and donate them to your favorite charity. Do it before the new year and get a tax break for your donation. Win-win!

Start with a clean house. Of course, you will have to clean up again sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but you’ll have a good start if you thoroughly clean before you set up the Christmas tree and other decorations. Consider adding iRobot’s Roomba to your arsenal of cleaning supplies to keep the floors dust and dirt free in between cleanings, even while you host house guests.

Catch up on the laundry and stay on top of it. You know you will have to wash clothes during the holidays, so it’s a good idea to start the season with empty hampers. Then, try to stay ahead of the deluge by doing laundry more often than usual. It’s easier to throw in one load of laundry during the busy season than to wash, dry, and fold load after load.

2. Plan ahead for your holiday shopping.

Make a shopping list before you begin to shop for gifts. This is a nice way to ease into the holiday shopping season without the intimidation of the mall or the entire Internet, which can lead to procrastination. And that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Making a plan and a budget will help prevent you from overspending.

3. Shop early and often.

Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to do all your holiday shopping. Nothing says stressed out like a shopping spree the day before the big day. Sure, the sales are good, but your selection is limited, and you have better things to do on Christmas Eve. Today, make it your goal to take the shopping list you made and tackle a few gifts at a time.

Set reasonable goals and work to achieve them. By taking the “divide and conquer” approach to shopping, you’ll save yourself the exhaustion of one or two marathon shopping trips. Spreading out the shopping is also easier on your budget.

4. Take advantage of online shopping.

This is a no-brainer, but from the looks of the parking lots at the malls, it seems some people still feel the holidays are not complete without scouring the local stores for the perfect gifts. Sure, it’s nice to browse for some special gifts and buy something that really catches your eye, but many gifts (all gifts?) can be browsed, bought, paid for, and arranged to be shipped all while you’re in your bunny slippers.

With many online retailers offering free shipping and deals galore on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Internet becomes a shopper’s BFF, especially during the holidays. Getting your holiday shopping done is no less satisfying when it’s done from your comfy chair. And the time you save by not driving to the mall, battling for parking spaces, trudging through crowds, waiting on check-out lines, and driving home exhausted can be better spent on more enjoyable holiday preparations, like, say, sleeping.

5. Stick to your regular exercise regimen.

…Or start one, gently, if you don’t already have one. Regular exercise has myriad benefits including:

  • Relieving stress
  • Promoting sound sleep
  • Maintaining your weight
  • Encouraging you to drink water. Staying hydrated will keep your systems in good working order, discourage you from overindulging, and combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol consumption.

All of these and more make for a better you for the holidays.

6. Make and freeze a few meals ahead of time.

Plan to serve a few pre-made casseroles while you have guests or during the height of the holidays when you’d rather spend time with family and friends than in the kitchen. Try some of these delicious recipes.

7. Anticipate stressful social situations and mentally prepare.

Visiting with toxic family members, partying with colleagues who are not necessarily friends, and simply being surrounded by more people than normal can send us into a tailspin of irritation, stress, and restless sleep. Brushing upon your conflict avoidance and resolution skills may be one of your most important holiday preparations.

8. Learn to say “no.”

The time leading up to the holidays is often the busiest time of the year. On top of the shopping, baking, tree-trimming, cleaning, and cooking, there are Christmas concerts, office parties, and tree-lighting ceremonies. All contribute to the Christmas spirit, but this is one time when less is more.

Choose your holiday preparations and festivities judiciously, realizing that there are only 24 hours in the day and seven to nine of them should be devoted to sleep. Then, schedule time for your carefully chosen holiday preparations just as you would any other appointments. Be selective about what festivities you will attend or at least limit the time you spend at them. By New Year’s Day, you’ll thank yourself for saying “no” to those events that will can easily be skipped.

9. Scale back your expectations of perfection.

Remember, the important thing is that everyone, including you, enjoys the holidays. Yes, you want your home to be inviting, festive, and filled with good things to eat and drink, but will your family and friends enjoy themselves less if you serve a tried and true recipe that you know you can master instead of an elaborate new dish? Of course, they won’t, and that’s one less stressor for you. Look for ways to scale back and practice enjoying the feeling of “good enough.”

10. Delegate holiday preparations to family members or friends.

This will be especially hard for those of us who feel the need to control everything and have high standards of perfection (see above). But the holidays are all about family and friends and spending time together, not the show you put on. Working together to decorate the house, serve a dinner, or host a party is a lot more enjoyable than trying to do it all yourself. Plus, your team will share in your sense of accomplishment when the house shimmers, the dinner satisfies, and the party rocks.

Here are some stress-reducing ideas:
  • Host a potluck instead of cooking an entire meal yourself.
  • Have the kids decorate the tree. (Remember, it’s not about perfection.)
  • Offer rewards to children who help keep the house clean.
  • Team-host a party with friends. One opens their house to guests and other hosts help out with food, beverages, supplies, and decorations.

The holidays don’t have to rob you of the sleep you need. Like any big event, this festive time of year can be enjoyable and stress-less with careful planning, a bit of discipline, and sound sleeping. Happy holidays!


  • National Sleep Foundation: sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times/page/0/1
  • House Method: housemethod.com/rooms/how-to-prep-your-home-for-the-holidays/
  • National Sleep Foundation: sleep.org/articles/sleep-and-stress/
  • Mayo Clinic: mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
  • Taste of Home: tasteofhome.com/collection/make-ahead-freezer-meals/view-all/
  • VeryWellMind: verywellmind.com/reduce-stress-conflict-difficult-people-3144965
  • VeryWellMind: verywellmind.com/reduce-stress-with-simple-holiday-meals-3144652

Comments (0)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *