For many people the holidays are a particularly hectic and stressful time of year.
Schedules seem jam packed even on normal days, but now there are family get-togethers, holiday parties, extra food prep, shopping and more. It may be tempting to skip a few hours of sleep to get it all in, but that’s a bad idea for your health and will actually only lead to even more stress.
Getting enough sleep each night is vital to your fitness as well as your long term health.
- Big benefits. While we may sometimes view sleep as an after thought, especially during busy times, it’s actually extremely critical to your overall well-being. Generally, we know that it makes us feel better, happier and more energetic, but the benefits of sleep go well beyond that. Your metabolism, immune system, memory, learning ability, tissue repair, hormone regulation and more all require an adequate amount of sleep to function properly.
- Your everything gets impaired. There’s not one area of life, let alone any cognitive function, that’s not impacted when you don’t get enough sleep: reaction time, mental acuity, creativity, memory, communication, decision making, mood, and on and on. Sleep is foundational to good health and performance.
- Stress management. Stress is that emotional strain or pressure you feel during your daily life due to what you perceive to be demanding circumstances. Now, on top of that there’s the potential added stress of the season – the financial impact, family interactions, time management and more. Everyone experiences it in one way or another so it’s important that we each find healthy ways to address it. Fortunately, sleep is one of our greatest weapons because it allows the body time to recharge and our minds a chance to rest.
- Being overtired can lead to overeating. When you don’t rest and stay awake too long certain hormones are released that increase your appetite. In effect, your body is hormonally telling you that if you won’t reenergize it by sleeping, then give it energy by eating.
- Lack of sleep may lead to weight gain. Not only does your body release hormones to tell you to eat when you don’t sleep, it also releases hormones to store fat. A one-two punch in terms of weight gain! You’re not likely to be needing, aka using, those extra calories you’ve eaten and your body is primed to store those calories as fat.
- Lack of sleep means lack of energy. The last thing you need is fatigue when you have a lot to do. No doubt you’ve experienced those days where you feel so tired that it takes you “all day” just to get through a couple of things on your to-do list. Getting enough rest each night can help you to stay mentally sharp and give you more stamina so you can buzz that list in no time.
- Increased risk of chronic disease. The list of disease states that have been shown to increase due to a lack of sleep seem endless and include Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
QUICK TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
- Establish a regular bed time and a bedtime routine. Stick to it, even on the weekend.
- Stop eating and drinking a couple of hours before bedtime. Avoid caffeine or other stimulants during the evening hours.
- Avoid bringing electronics into your sleeping area. Turn off the TV, lap top, tablet, smart phone, etc. so your brain can begin to turn off.
- Make it comfortable. For most people that means a dark, cool and quiet area. Do what you need to in order to establish the relaxing atmosphere you need.
- Establish a sleep-friendly daily routine. Include exercise and avoid late afternoon naps. Learn to manage daily stress so that you begin to wind down and relax as your bedtime approaches.
National Sleep Foundation recommendations:
- 7-9 hours for adults
- 10-11 hours for school aged children
Rest well and take good care of yourself!