Eight in Ten Americans are Stressed About the Holidays — Survey Reveals Seasonal Trends in Sleep Loss, Travel, and Resolutions
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The sight of holiday decor lining store shelves in early October may make some of us feel merry and bright, but for others, the shortening days and end-of-year deadlines, combined with never-ending lists of gifts for relatives, bosses, friends, and colleagues, are a recipe for stress and sleep problems. With layoffs, heightened costs of goods, and increased travel post-lockdown, many are stressed about the upcoming winter months.
We surveyed over 1,000 American adults on their holiday wellness habits to see how they anticipate their sleep, mental health, and nutrition habits will change this season. Below, we will discuss the results and share a few holiday sleep tips from Dr. Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis.
Holiday Stress and Sleep
Our survey results suggest that the majority of Americans are feeling the pressure of the upcoming holiday season.
Eight in ten Americans say that the expectations and events around the holidays cause them to feel increased stress, a notable difference from our 2021 holiday survey which found that 66 percent of people feel more stressed during the holiday season.
In addition to feeling more stressed, nearly three in ten people say they get less sleep around the holidays. Almost a third (31.1 percent) of people say their physical and mental health worsens in the months of November, December, and January.
Some of this stress may be attributed to worries about money; about half (48.2 percent) of Americans report that financial issues are the main cause of their stress around the holidays. It’s no wonder financial stress is coming to play, as one in five people anticipate spending over $1,000 on gifts, travel, and events this holiday season. With 61 percent of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, these expenses can quickly become a financial burden for many.
Women Report Greater Stress, Worsened Sleep Around the Holidays
Our survey results showed some interesting differences between women and men’s answers.
32.3 percent of women said they typically get less sleep during the holiday season compared to the rest of the year, while a lesser percentage (21.8 percent) of men reported the same.
Not only are women sleeping less over the holiday season, but 15.4 percent of men say they get more sleep during the holidays, compared to just 11.7 percent of women. Women are also more likely to say their physical health worsens (33.7 percent versus 28.4 percent) and mental health worsens (37.4 percent versus 25.1 percent). This finding echoes a 2023 Sleepopolis survey of over 2,000 people that found women are more likely to struggle with falling and staying asleep than men.
Holiday Celebrations and Resolutions
While many will struggle with stress and sleep problems over the holidays, 72.0 percent of people plan to take steps to improve their wellness this holiday season. The most common actions that respondents plan to implement are eating healthier (42.8 percent), prioritizing sleep (35.5 percent), and implementing an exercise routine (28.7 percent).
However, just one in four people (24.9 percent) will implement a New Year’s resolution, leaving 38.2 percent on the fence about the New Year’s tradition, and 36.9 percent planning to skip out on resolutions this upcoming year.
Alcohol Consumption Around the Holidays
The negative effects of alcohol on sleep have been widely studied, and those who drink alcohol close to their bedtime are likely to suffer from disturbed sleep. Of those who drink alcohol, 44.9 percent say that their drinking habits increase during holiday months, meaning many will experience these negative effects firsthand.
And while the holiday season can be a period of increased alcohol consumption for many, one in four people are very interested in participating in “Dry January” this year — 21.8 percent are somewhat interested, and just over half (52.4 percent) are not interested in participating in the wellness trend.
Holiday Food and Drowsiness
The overindulgence of food and sweets can also have a negative effect on sleep. Those holiday favorites can be irresistible, and the survey shows that more than one in three (36.42 percent) people eat until they feel uncomfortably full for most or all holiday meals. As you might expect, Eight in ten people (80.3 percent) say they eat more sweets during the holiday season than normal.
Thanksgiving dinner, specifically, is commonly known to make people feel sleepy, with 60.3 percent of people saying that particular holiday meal makes them feel drowsy. So drowsy, that a quick afternoon snooze is often in order — our survey found that one in five people nap after eating their Thanksgiving meal, and 26.4 percent are left wishing they could take a nap, but are unable to because of other obligations (such as cleaning and hosting).
As is often the case when it comes to sleep, we found a few differences in the napping habits of men and women. A larger percentage of men take naps — and are able to take naps — after their Thanksgiving meals; 30.4 percent of women wish they could nap after Thanksgiving, versus 22.6 percent of men, but are unable to do so because of post-meal obligations.
Holiday Travel and Hosting Challenges
Jet lag, stress, discomfort, and changing schedules are just a few sleep disruptors that can be caused by travel. Over half of people (54.5 percent) typically travel to visit family or friends over the holiday season, and shockingly, over half (52.1 percent) would rather stay at a hotel or rental than as a guest in the host’s home.
The reasons why can vary, but think of the last time you crashed on a loved one’s couch — maybe your back ached without the support you’re used to, or their dog woke you up for a little 3 a.m. snuggle. One viral TikTok even shows a guest sleeping in a dog cage at their friend’s home. A lack of space, privacy, and comfortable sleeping areas are just a few reasons why people might be making those holiday hotel reservations.
77.2 percent say their sleep is at least somewhat impacted when they stay as a guest in someone’s home. On the other hand, 75.2 percent of people say that their sleep is somewhat impacted when they host guests in their own home overnight.
Women Report Increased Travel Impacts on Sleep
Women are more likely than men to say they would rather sleep at a hotel or rental (57.2 percent versus 46.6 percent). A possible explanation for this from our survey results is that women are more likely to experience impacts on their sleep quality as a guest: 81.9 percent of women (versus 72.6 percent of men) said their sleep quality is impacted when they are a guest in someone’s home.
Hosting also appears to be an issue for sleep; 80.2 percent of women said that their sleep quality is at least somewhat impacted while hosting out of town guests, while 70.5 percent of men say hosting affects the quality of their sleep.
Q&A with Dr. Harris
Why might people tend to struggle with sleep over the holiday season?
“The holidays can be a time of year when many people struggle with sleep. This is due to a number of factors, including disrupted routines, increased stress, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and tempting foods.
If you are struggling to sleep during the holidays, there are a number of things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene. Try to stick to your regular sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, eat a healthy diet, and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.”
What might explain the differences in sleep and stress reported by women in our survey?
“Women are more likely to report sleep deprivation during the holiday season than men. This may be due to a number of factors, including biological factors such as hormonal changes and menopause, psychosocial factors such as gender roles and expectations and mental health, and other factors such as financial stress and travel.”
Can overeating make you feel tired? How do overeating and eating sugary foods affect sleep quality?
“When you eat a large meal, your body has to work hard to digest it. This can divert energy away from other tasks, such as staying awake and alert. Overeating can also cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly, which can lead to fatigue. Also, sugar can cause hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels. This can lead to increased urination, which can disrupt sleep.”
60 percent of our survey respondents said Thanksgiving food makes them feel drowsy. Is it a good or bad idea to nap after eating a big holiday meal, like Thanksgiving dinner?
“A short power nap can improve alertness and cognitive function, reduce stress, and boost mood. On the other hand, napping for too long can lead to sleep inertia and interfere with nighttime sleep. If you do decide to nap, keep it short and sweet (20-30 minutes), nap in a dark, quiet, and cool room, and avoid napping too close to bedtime.”
Prioritizing sleep appears to be a popular holiday resolution this year. What can people do to successfully improve their sleep?
“If your goal is to improve your sleep quantity and quality, focus on improving your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the activities surrounding your nighttime routine, as well as any lifestyle behaviors you practice that promote better sleep. It’s important to be mindful of the things you do during the day and before bed that can impact your sleep, such as napping, your caffeine intake, exercise, how much water you drink, alcohol consumption, your sleep schedule, and bed/wake times.
If you’ve tried good sleep hygiene in the past and it isn’t improving your sleep – or if you snore a lot, thrash in bed, sleepwalk/sleeptalk, have chronic nightmares, or just insomnia that isn’t getting better, a good sleep resolution could just be to talk with your doctor about your sleep!”
52 percent of our survey respondents said they would rather sleep at a hotel than as a guest in their friends’/relatives’ homes. What can guests do to make this a more comfortable experience?
“When staying overnight as a guest, it may be tricky to create a sleep-conducive environment that is comfortable, cool, quiet, and dark. Bring an eye mask with you to block out unwanted light, and reduce noise with earplugs or a white noise machine. You can also bring your pillow with you to ensure your bedding is comfortable.
To unwind after celebrating with friends or family, incorporate relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine (30 to 60 minutes before bed). This can include activities such as reading a book, practicing meditation, journaling, deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music. These activities help signal to your body and mind that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. And, try to limit caffeine at least 8 hours before bed and alcohol at least 3 hours before bed.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is crucial for a restful sleep. Try to establish a consistent sleep and wake time, even when celebrating the holidays. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep at the desired time.”
Sleepopolis conducted an online survey of 1,025 American adults using CloudResearch’s Connect. The survey was conducted in October of 2024. The respondent pool consisted of 50.5 percent women, 47.7 percent men, and 1.8 percent identified as another gender. Percentages were rounded to the nearest tenth for ease of reading. All data is correct as of November 2024.
Fair Use Statement
We hope this information can be useful in spreading awareness of sleep and wellness challenges during the holiday season. You are welcome to share any of the findings from this survey as well as accompanying graphics. Please cite this article as the original source with a link back to this page. You may contact Brianna Auray (firstname.lastname@example.org), Data Analyst at Sleepopolis, with any questions or inquiries about the Sleepopolis team.