Sam Sly

New Years Eve Recovery Plan: Using HRV To Recover From That Party Or Celebration

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New Years Eve Recovery Plan: Using HRV To Recover From That Party Or Celebration

We start the new year with the best intentions. Often we declare New Year's Resolutions to get fitter, eat healthier, decrease stress, and work towards our goals. We also frequently end the old year with a party, night out, or evening of  indulgence.

The good times and memories are priceless, but sometimes after a night of celebration we wakeup on January 1 feeling tired and lacking motivation.  

If you are like many people, you may find that you need to recover from New Year's Eve before you can tackle your goals and resolutions.

Recovering from a party or celebration is not completely unlike recovering from a race, vigorous workout, illness, or stressful deadline at work. Yes, it is different and the degree of required recovery depends on the choices you made. However, your heart rate variability (HRV) reading will likely show less variability due to a late night out, food indulgences, or alcohol consumption.

How The New Year's Eve Party Affects Your Body

Before we explore how to recover from that celebration, it is important to know how common party and holiday activities affect your body. In fact, armed with this knowledge you may make choices that result in waking up feeling refreshed and invigorated.

Sleep Debt After A Night Out

Even early birds frequently stay up all night to greet the new year. Too little sleep results in a phenomenon known as "sleep debt." During the holiday season, sleep debt is often compounded by travel, social events, all-night Netflix binges, and other seasonal activities. New Years Eve is often contributing to existing sleep debt.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep debt accumulates when you fail to get the optimum 6 - 9 hours of sleep each night. When we are active and awake, our bodies accumulate a neurotransmitter called adenosine. During sleep, we break down that chemical and release it. When we don't get enough sleep over time, we accumulate more adenosine and experience "sleep debt."

Some common side effects of sleep debt include drowsiness, decreased reaction time, fatigue and irritability. More serious health concerns develop over time. Sleep debt also tends to cause the sympathetic nervous system to dominate and reduces your HRV.

Alcohol Consumption And HRV The Next Day

How does that New Year's Eve toast affect your body? If you drink alcohol, you may find that it disrupts your sleep quality that night and it decreases your HRV.  

In 2011 researchers studied college students and how alcohol consumption impacted their sleep quality and their HRV. Not surprisingly, they found that the group who consumed the least alcohol experienced better sleep and maintained a higher HRV while the group that consumed the most lost HRV and sleep. Most subjects experienced a decreased HRV the following day after the equivalent of two glasses of wine.

Overeating And New Year's Eve

Our Thanksgiving post outlines research about how overeating or indulging in high-calorie foods can stress the heart and decrease HRV for some individuals. The same applies during New Year's Eve and New Year's Day if your celebrations involve lavish meals, brunches, and buffets.

Tips For New Years Eve Party Recovery

Celebratory indulgence may be fun, but it also stresses the body. Try these tips so you can have fun while limiting the damage. Also, plan on recovery time just like you would in any HRV-friendly lifestyle following a deadline, vigorous workout, or illness.

  • Plan ahead to minimize and moderate your indulgence. If you choose to drink alcohol, consider alternating your cocktails with a mocktail or a glass of sparkling water and lemon. That way you still have a festive drink and you hydrate your body.
  • Try small portions of high-calorie canapes, tapas, or finger food at the party. Load up (within reason) on fresh vegetables, cut fruit, and healthy options. Eat slowly and pay attention to your hunger signals. Try a similar approach at a buffet.
  • Plan an extra hour or half hour of sleep each day in the week leading up to New Years Eve. This extra sleep will help repay your holiday season sleep debt. If possible plan a short power nap and go to bed a little earlier on New Year's Day and a few days afterwards.
  • Dance, play games or otherwise stay active as much as possible on New Year's Eve and New Years Day. You are less likely to overindulge if you are busy dancing, walking around, playing games and enjoying good company.
  • Pay attention to your baseline HRV and resting heart rate in the days following New Years Eve. You should see your HRV return to baseline numbers as you catch up on sleep and your body repairs itself.

This New Year's Eve you can celebrate in style yet still wake up ready to meet your New Year's Resolutions!

Sources And Resources

Repaying Your Sleep Debt, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Sleep Quality during Exam Stress: The Role of Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine

Matthias Zunhammer,  Peter Eichhammer and  Volker Busch

1Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

2Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany

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