Post-Holiday Sleep…Why do I feel so bad?


Last day of your holidays; That dreaded night before you return to work (includes students, contractors, athletes etc.). You try to go to bed early, you toss, you turn and you can’t seem to fall asleep. Your mind races, thoughts of work, things to do and all the deadlines that you must meet. So why does this happen?

When we take a break from work and enjoy a holiday such as Christmas or a family holiday, we often fall into different sleep patterns compared to our  regular sleep patterns. During a holiday without the imposition of an alarm clock, we generally fall into our ‘normal’ sleep patterns. Most people fall into three different categories; owl, neither, lark chronotype. Check out this 3-minute clip from ASAP Science Owl vs Larks

As the names suggests, owls like to go to bed and get up late, neither category can switch easily depending on social and environmental factors and larks like to go to bed early and get up early. So, whilst you may be forced into a lark chronotype depending on your work, you may in fact be more of an owl.

In this example (1st of Jan 2017), we see how the participant generally slept in longer in the morning and achieved greater sleep duration (tended to be an owl). On the night before returning to work (yesterday), the sleep duration was reduced by 3hrs 39minutes due to the early morning alarm clock (forced to be a lark).

So, what can I do to stop or reduce this happening? First don’t panic, having a night or two of bad sleep is normal. To break the holiday sleep pattern, it may take a few days. Try to avoid daytime naps. Struggle through the day and try to increase your sleep drive. However, if you are in a safety critical role you should let your leader know how you are feeling and schedule tasks and or breaks appropriately. If possible, reduce caffeine and eliminate caffeine after 14:00. Revisiting our participant’s data, we can see how he struggled through day 1 of work and managed to achieve an earlier time of sleep onset and kept his sleep duration above 8 hours.

Interested in knowing your chronotype and how you can optimize your performance, get in touch.


Subscribe to our newsletter:

Subscribe for updates from Melius Consulting and research arm Sleep4Performance.

Recent Posts:

Past Newsletters: