Survive the Holiday Marathon: Sleep!


Is your holiday line up beginning to look more like the month long extended version of event challenges for the Tough Mudder or the uphill legs of the Ragnar Relay endurance marathon made up of a team short a few runners? As the Amazing Race begins and available openings for downtime on the event calendar diminish are you anticipating a repeat of last season’s final episode? In flurry of festivities are your finish line photos always an image of you depleted yet still juggling work, family, traditions and expectations as you cut through that final ribbon?

Traditionally, it is a challenge for most people to maintain a healthy balance during the holidays. Not only is there the endless temptations of homemade treats and dinner parties that sabotage your nutrition plan, but the time for usual workouts get bumped for other commitments. Sleeping time gets snipped short as we burn the candle from both ends; leaving a short wick, a quick temper, and a get sick risk.

It is curious to consider our need for sleep in the big picture sense. The study of the purpose of sleep and the consequences of the lack thereof, is ongoing in the science world. In reading some recent research, an author pointed out that humans and animals alike, over time, we have not evolved sleep out of our basic needs for survival. Animals in nature are most vulnerable to attack while sleeping, and just as other traits of survival dominate, if sleep were not vital to existence it would be long gone. Even in the revolutionized, modernized, technologized world, we still need our ZZzzzz’s. Sleep is when your body’s metabolic needs slow to conserve energy, rebuild muscle, and balance hormones. It has a restorative purpose in the brain that keep you mentally sharp, emotionally stable, and convert short term to long term memory. Sleep deprivation has been associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety, decreased libido, poor judgement, slow response time, increase in accidents, decrease in productivity, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, increased inflammation, and decreased immune response.

Hopefully the evidence has you motivated to make adequate sleep one of your health goals. If you just are not a good sleeper, try these tips to make your time devoted to sleep truly rejuvenating. Making some mindful adjustment in your sleep hygiene can improve your sleep quality and quantity.

  • Try to make a set schedule for your sleep time. Set your watch or phone alarm to cue you to get ready for bed an hour before it time for lights out and resist the urge to sleep in. Take a 20-30 minute power nap before 3 pm instead of reaching for sugar or caffeine for a power surge.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol the 6 hours before bedtime, the stimulant keeps you awake and alcohol interferes with REM sleep.
  • Avoid late evening heavy meals, aim for eating dinner 3 hours before going to bed. Opt for a healthy light snack instead of sugary desserts or treats if you are hungry. Cutting back of liquids in the evening minimizes bathroom trips in the night.
  • Eliminate screen time of any kind an hour before going to bed. Instead, write a list of all the loose-ends of the day that will otherwise circle in you thoughts as soon as you turn out the lights. Then, devote the 30 minutes before going to bed to doing something relaxing to wind down.
  • Don’t confuse your body’s signals by falling asleep on the sofa or shopping on your iPad in bed. Keep your bedroom TV free, read in the recliner, mute the ringers, and turn off the lights. Keep it cool and comfortable with your favorite blanket handy.
  • If you can’t sleep, try to avoid the sense of frustration. Get up and go to a different room and add to your loose-end list or read, then go back to bed when you feel sleepy.

Put 7-8 hours of sleep on your daily to-do list, make it a priority and part of your training plan for this holiday marathon season.

Sleep Well, LiVe Well