Why Sleep Suffers On New Year's Eve & How To Get Back On Track
Of the 365 days in a non-leap year, one is uniquely challenging for sleep. Nope, not when we turn our clocks forward (though that isn't so great for our snooze either). According to data from sleep health technology company Oura, New Year's Eve is when people around the world constantly clock the lowest sleep scores.
Oura's 2022 Global Community Data report shares that Oura ring wearers' average sleep score drops to 72 out of 100 on NYE, compared to 78 on the highest-scoring sleep days (which, by the way, tend to happen in March and April). It's no surprise that we find it tough to get to bed after a holiday that for all intents and purposes starts at midnight. The combination of booze, social excitement, late-night food, and wonky schedules doesn't do our sleep quality any favors.
But have no fear. One night of bad sleep is not the end of the world, and Oura's data also shows that January is the month when we typically feel our most rested and ready for the day. So in the name of starting 2023 off right (post-January 1, that is), here are some expert-backed tips on how to make it your best sleep year yet:
You should start your sleep routine in the morning.
"I have been really focused lately on sticking with a strong morning 'windup' ritual. My windup includes 10 minutes of morning light exposure and a cold shower! I never thought I'd be able to stick with the cold shower bit, but I find that taking a one- to three-minute cold shower first thing in the morning is an incredibly effective way to make me feel awake and alert, even if I had a not-so-great night of sleep. I also find that it helps to build my mental resilience, as I can tell myself, "That was probably the most difficult thing you will do all day!" After my cold shower, I throw my bathrobe on, grab my coffee, and take my dogs out in our backyard, so they can run around and I can get a healthy, circadian-effective dose of morning light. A good night of sleep starts with a strong windup routine."
It pays to be picky about light.
"You'd be surprised how much junk light can make it through the cracks on the sides of your windows. You can find blackout curtains online (I don't recommend any one brand over the other), but be sure to buy some Velcro to tape down the sides and put a valance on top because light can seep in all around the edges of the curtains. You want your room to be completely dark. A darker bedroom equals better sleep."
Melatonin is a hormone, not a nightly sleep supplement. Try magnesium instead.
"The most compelling evidence on melatonin use is for an anomaly in your sleep circadian rhythm, like if you're traveling across time zones or doing shift work... Melatonin is a hormone that your pineal gland secretes. I have not seen good data to show that taking high doses of melatonin will not impact your endogenous, natural production of melatonin... In fact, you might have desensitization of the melatonin reception. I encourage nonhormonal, natural helpers like magnesium bisglycinate for sleep. This type of melatonin is gentle on the stomach and bioavailable, and that lines up with how you want to feel when you take something close to bedtime."
If you wake up in the middle of the night, remember it's just "middle sleep."
"[Waking up around 2 a.m.] is something called 'middle sleep,' which is a normal, physiologic wake-up between two symmetric blocks of sleep. I used to stress about it, thinking, oh no, I'm awake in the middle of the night; this is going to be a bad night of sleep; tomorrow is going to be a bad day. And it turns out, that narrative I was telling myself, by stirring up my stress response, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, instead, I reassure myself that this is just middle sleep. I use the bathroom, have a sip of water, and then rest with my eyes closed, trusting that I'll fall back asleep momentarily. And I do."
Make the last thing you look at before bed constructive.
"Once in bed, I meditate and look at my annual Action board, a collage of all my goals and desires. I look at the board, visualize it as if it is already true, feel what that feels like in all my senses, and give gratitude for it becoming real. The reason for looking at the board last thing at night is the psychological phenomenon called the Tetris effect. This shows that the last thing you look at, visualize, and think about before you fall asleep has a big impact on your subconscious and your dreams. That leads to the priming of the brain as it chooses what to filter out/tag as important to you thriving the next day."
You're not going to sleep perfectly every night—and that's OK.
"One of my big issues with how sleep is portrayed in our current culture is the idea of perfection, that you 'need' to get optimal sleep quality and duration every single night. But the reality is that this is not possible for the vast majority of people. There's variation from night to night, and that's normal... I aim for five nights a week (at least) where I'm content with my sleep, which helps reduce the idea of perfection. If I get those five nights a week of good sleep, I'm happy."
The combination of food, alcohol, socializing, and late bedtimes on NYE might send your sleep into a nose-dive. Carry these tips into the new year to get your snooze back on track faster than you can say "Happy New Year!"
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.