Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without somebody dozing off in an armchair after dinner! Why is it that this festive meal is so snooze-inducing? How can you counter it for an active, and fun-filled Christmas? Whilst at Soak&Sleep we normally encourage you to doze off, at Christmas we know you want to make the most of your day and have a restful night’s sleep after - rather than during - the day!
Foods to put on the Naughty List
One theory to why people doze off on Christmas Day afternoon is that it’s the levels of turkey meat consumed. Turkey and other poultry contain tryptophan, an amino acid which produces melatonin – which induces sleep. However, it’s not thought that the levels of tryptophan in turkey alone are high enough to cause your food ‘coma’.
Cheese also contains tryptophan and in much larger doses than turkey, but you don’t generally conk out every time you eat a toasted cheese sandwich. Whilst it’s been suggested that the digestive process itself is to blame – by diverting blood away from the brain, it’s far more likely that portion size is responsible, along with the high proportion of carbohydrates. Recent research suggests that we consume around 3000 calories in our Christmas dinner and that’s not including all of the booze! Bearing in mind that on average we should eat between 2000 and 3000 calories over an entire day, it’s not really surprising that our bodies go into meltdown!
All of that stuffing, potatoes, booze and dessert is far more likely to make you feel comatose. The high levels of carbohydrates cause your body to release extra insulin to keep your blood sugar in check, which in turn can trigger ‘sleep’ hormones.
What’s the answer?
Go easy on the booze
Christmas is also a great time for people to indulge in alcohol. Even those who don’t drink regularly tend to have a little tipple at Christmas. If you don’t want to feel drowsy, the answer is to not start drinking too early in the day and to alternate between water and your favourite alcoholic beverage.
Walk it off
Whilst it’s tempting to plonk yourself on the sofa for the entire day, watching Christmas specials, there’s nothing like a family walk on Christmas Day. Fresh air will wake you up and you’re less likely to want to nap when you return home. You’ll burn off some of those extra calories that you’ve indulged in and if the sun is out, you’ll also get a vitamin D boost!
Keep the air flowing through the house
By keeping the windows open, not only are you being Covid conscious, all the fresh air will keep you alert, so win win!
Stick to normal bedtimes
The excitement of Christmas Eve can affect how you feel the next day - some will stay up later than usual with friends and family, whilst others will snuggle up in their duvets early, willing Christmas and Santa to arrive! It’s best if you stick as closely to your usual bedtime as possible if you want to feel at your peak the next day.
Keep your mind active
Playing a game after dinner rather than surrendering to the sofa will keep your mind active and alert!
Graze, don’t pig-out
Whilst not traditional, if you want to stay awake on Christmas Day, the answer is to graze on food, rather than eat a huge dinner. Grazing is generally not recommended for maintaining a healthy weight as it’s hard to keep track of what you’re eating. However, on Christmas Day, by grazing, your body won’t be overwhelmed with a massive amount of food all in one go, and your sugar levels should remain fairly balanced for most of the day. Taking a 20-minute break after eating can also prevent over-indulging. It takes this long for your brain to register your stomach is full.
You can also mix healthy snacks with the yummy junk food for a more balanced diet, or eat foods which are high in nutrients or rich in protein. Below are some of the healthier Christmas choices that you can enjoy:
1. Smoked salmon
An excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium and selenium. Smoked salmon is low in calories and a great source of protein, with useful amounts of vitamin B3 (niacin), which helps your body break down food for energy.
As well as being high in vitamin C, cranberries contain good amounts of the beneficial antioxidant proanthocyanidin, which gives the berries their red colour. Worth heaping on the cranberry sauce to your Christmas dinner plate for the extra vitamins!
3. Red cabbage
Surprisingly high in folate and calcium, which is required for healthy bones and teeth. Red cabbage is richer in vitamin C and protective anthocyanins than the green varieties, which is helpful for maintaining skin health and potentially lowering the risk of heart disease.
Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene which your body converts into vitamin A, this is important for eye and skin health. The darker in colour the carrot, the more beta-carotene it contains. Carrots are also a good source of potassium which is needed to regulate fluid balance in the body .
Parsnips, a good source of folate, they also contain almost a third as much fibre as an equivalent portion of carrots. They are higher in calories than carrots, but they’re still not bad for you, as long as you don’t roast them in fat!
6. Roast potatoes
Roasting potatoes in oil piles on the calories – but it is Christmas after all! Thankfully potatoes are still low in saturated fat, and if cooked in vegetable oil, are a reasonable source of all sorts of nutrients including potassium and magnesium, as well as folate. Plus, they contain reasonable amounts of fibre which helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer.
7. Brussels sprouts
Not everyone’s favourite! However, Brussels sprouts are a rich source of folate and vitamin C. Sprouts also contain vitamin B6 which is involved in the metabolism of amino acids, the formation of red blood cells and a healthy nervous system.
8. Mince pies and Christmas pudding
It’s best to go a little easy on these as they’re both likely to be full of saturated fat and therefore calories. However, pies and puddings with a higher fruit content will be healthier and contain essential minerals such as potassium and iron. Homemade are probably the healthiest option as they’re likely to have more fruit and a lower saturated fat content.
Whether you are struggling to sleep or looking for some cosy winter bed linen, Soak&Sleep have the solution for you. 2020 has been an extremely stressful year and we hope our tips will help you to relax this Christmas, without dozing off in your favourite chair!