Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 12th 2013 Contents B44
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, December 12, 2013
The holiday season is a time when
people try to do too much. And that
often leads to stress and worry,
which can be the enemies of a good
night s sleep. So here are a few tricks
to help manage the episodic bouts
of insomnia that are common during
the Christmas season.
Following these rules can help you
sleep better, brighten your holiday
mood and maybe even keep your
weight under control.
Have a consistent wake-up time
This is easier said than done during
the holidays, as schedules often
become erratic and late night-parties
make sleeping in a delicious tempta-
tion. Don t surrender to it.
When you sleep in, your "sleep
drive" is diminished, making it more
difficult to fall asleep the coming
night. You can think of your sleep
drive like a rubber band---to be able
to fall asleep deeply and quickly, you
want that rubber band to be extra
When you sleep in and then try to
go to bed at the same time as usual,
that rubber band is going to be kind
of floppy (ie, you won t have accu-
mulated enough sleep drive). So hav-
ing a consistent wake time will ensure
that your sleep drive is high through-
out the week.
Wake time is the single most impor-
tant factor that sets our internal bio-
logical clocks---scientists have demon-
strated that keeping our schedules in
sync with our biological clocks is crit-
ical to maintaining optimal health.
In fact, just recently, research has
shown that women who have a con-
sistent wake time have lower body
fat.So this tip may come with the col-
lateral benefit of helping avoid those
added pounds that are often the com-
panion of holiday indulgence.
Exercise and do it
outside if you can
Physical activity and exposure to
natural light are good for sleep and
good ways to reduce stress and
Recent research has shown that
engaging in regular physical activity
improves sleep quality in both healthy
sleepers and individuals with insom-
On the other hand, a 2013 study
demonstrated that after a poor night
of sleep, participants were much less
likely to engage in exercise the next
Lead author of the study, Dr Kelly
Glazer-Baron, notes that "consistency
is the key. Keep up your exercise over
And, of course, a brisk walk after
dinner can help neutralise the calories,
and possibly the guilt, that came with
that second slice of pumpkin pie.
Schedule 15 minutes of "worry
time" at least one hour before
If you allow your mind ample time
to think through your to-do list, solve
problems and confront worry, it s less
likely these demons will come calling
at three am. Writing these thoughts
down can further reduce the likelihood
that they will reappear after you return
Scientists have shown that sched-
uled writing activities can reduce feel-
ings of stress as well as physiological
symptoms of stress (eg, blood pres-
Scheduled worry can actually train
your brain that the time to worry is
over when the time for a restful night
of sleep arrives.
A glass of wine at dinner, a cham-
pagne toast at midnight, for many
these are cherished holiday traditions.
Fine, but don t overdo it.
There are a lot of misconceptions
about the effects of alcohol on sleep.
Science has shown us that while a
"nightcap" can induce sleep onset, as
the body metabolises the alcohol, it
ultimately ends up disrupting sleep
later in the night.
Particularly around the holidays,
when there are plenty of opportunities
to imbibe, the "nightcap" can become
three, four or more "nightcaps."
This can lead to even greater sleep
disturbances, not to mention a hang-
over, which may lead you to want to
sleep in and skip exercise. And thus,
a vicious cycle begins.
Don't just lie there stewing in the
juices of your own worry
If you can t fall asleep or wake up
and can t fall back to sleep, get out
Researchers call this technique
"stimulus control." This is another
brain-training exercise, one that
teaches you to associate the bed with
sleep (and sex) and not with worry,
frustration and stress but don t use
this time on stimulating activities like
catching up on work, surfing the net
or playing that new video game.
Instead do something distracting
enough to get your mind off your
sleeplessness. Strategies that some
patients most frequently use are read-
ing, crossword puzzles, sorting socks
(seriously), cross-stitch or listening
to relaxing music.
The idea is to engage in this activity
until you feel sleepy again, at which
point you return to bed.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
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