Contact Us (800) 966-5540

Toasting Without Troubles: Enjoying Alcohol Responsibly During the Holiday Season

The holidays are in full swing, and it’s a festive time of year for many folks. With these long nights near the Winter Solstice, we find cheer with social events, whether it’s after work drinks with co-workers, holiday parties both personal and professional, or the official gatherings with family. And holiday celebrations all tend to feature something in common—alcohol.

Have you ever heard of a condition known as “Holiday Heart”? This occurs when binge drinking puts the heart into an irregular rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. Yikes! Let’s learn more.

Toasting Without Troubles: Enjoying Alcohol Responsibly During the Holiday Season 1

Not So Jolly

Holiday Heart, as the name suggests, is more common around the holidays due to the increased presence of alcohol. When we’re being social, we can lose track of the amount we’re drinking. In addition, we also tend to overeat and undersleep around these events, and all these factors can stack up and tax our system. 

For folks who don’t drink regularly, this may be quite a shock to discover that their body doesn’t metabolize alcohol like it once did, and for those who do, they may discover the limits of their body. It’s also true that as we age, our resiliency to alcohol intake declines, and our health suffers more with prolonged usage and frequency. 

Those who already have heart issues are more susceptible, but it can happen to anybody. And if left untreated, Holiday Heart can lead to stroke or heart attack. So what are we looking for? 

The Signs & Symptoms

Be sure to look out for these signals:

  • Dizziness. This can range from mild lightheadedness to fainting. 
  • Heart palpitations. May feel like fluttering, heart racing, or pounding. 
  • Lack of energy. Because the heart isn’t pumping effectively, you’ll feel more tired than usual.
  • Chest discomfort. Felt as pain or pressure.
  • Trouble breathing. Usually felt when going about daily activities, but can also happen while at rest. 

None of this sounds pleasant, so how do we avoid this?

Toasting Without Troubles: Enjoying Alcohol Responsibly During the Holiday Season 2

Make a Plan

As they say…failure to plan is a plan to fail. If you don’t set boundaries for yourself before heading into a holiday soirée, you’re likely to get caught up in the festivities and regret it the next day. And hopefully not to the degree that you’re waking up in the hospital!

This time of year can be particularly challenging to maintain our healthy habits, making Holiday Heart more of a concern. With colder weather, longer nights, being indoors more, and then the added holidays, we can set ourselves up for a rough time. 

Here are some general guidelines to stay healthy this holiday season:

  • Eat & drink in moderation. This sounds obvious, but it helps to plan around your events so that you don’t overindulge too often. Eat mindfully the day of your events, or even eat a healthy meal right before going so that you can really enjoy the treats there rather than mindlessly snacking all night. Mocktails are trending now, so consider replacing some or all of your alcoholic drinks with one of those. 
  • Mind your stress levels. The holidays can be fun, but they can also bring a lot of stress too. Alcohol can really do a number on our cortisol levels, learn more about that in our Healthy Sleep Series.
  • Stay active. As tempting as it is to slack off, maintaining your exercise routine during the holidays and winter months will keep your heart healthy and help your body metabolize the extra food and alcohol intake. 
  • Be cautious with remedies. Reaching for painkillers to help a hangover is common, but if you already have heart issues, you may need to think twice. They can raise blood pressure and put more strain on your heart. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage, and ibuprofen (Advil) strains kidneys and can cause stomach bleeding. These organs are already burdened by trying to metabolize the alcohol in the first place. 

This is good advice for all of us, but especially if your health is already compromised or you have pre-existing heart issues. 

If you or a loved one ends up with Holiday Heart that requires treatment, the direction will depend on overall health—if it’s good, the doctor will treat it with beta blockers or other medications; if it’s not so good, electrical cardioversion to shock the heart back into rhythm may be necessary. 

Toasting Without Troubles: Enjoying Alcohol Responsibly During the Holiday Season 3

Healthy, Happy Holidays

Hopefully, none of this will be necessary, and every one of our Dreamers reading this will enjoy a festive, merry, and safe holiday season. Take this as a good reminder to continue taking good care of yourself and looking out for your loved ones as well. 

To learn more about alcohol and its effects on our bodies, including our sleep quality, check out this other edition of our Healthy Sleep Series

And for more holiday cheer, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest. Wishing everyone a season filled with comfort and joy!


The information in this article, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. No material here is intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your physician or other qualified health care practitioner with any questions or concerns you may have for your care.

For More From the Counting Sheep Blog
Sign Up for Our Newsletter