How to save your vacation sleep

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Vacations and stress seem to go hand in hand. To cope, many people often steal hours from their sleep to pack all the cooking, shopping, gift-wrapping, parties, and family time.

“Even a night or two of short sleep can have short-term effects on your health, mood and well-being,” said sleep specialist Kristen Knutson, associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University. Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. E-mail.

“You’ll enjoy the holidays more if you can protect your sleep time — and you can get more done if you’re not tired and inefficient from sleep deprivation,” she said.

Eating large, heavy meals forces the body to work harder to digest food, which can contribute to fatigue, said Steven Malin, associate professor in the department of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“Carbohydrates and proteins as well as fats induce a series of hormonal changes that can promote changes in serotonin, which is a feel-good and pleasure hormone that promotes drowsiness,” he said via e -mail.

Eating smaller portions and taking breaks to check with your body if you’re full can help, said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California’s Keck School of Medicine. from South.

“I know it sounds cruel, especially when a delicious meal is right in front of you, but this trick can help reduce your feeling of sleepiness,” he said.

Try replacing the sugary and fatty foods on your holiday plate with unprocessed, fiber-rich foods. These substitutions “slow down digestion so people feel full longer,” Malin said.

“Another approach is to take water consumption into account. Consuming enough water before eating can help lengthen the stomach and create a feeling of fullness,” he added.

Exercise also helps counter feelings of slowness, Malin said. Even standing and moving around the house or neighborhood can help reset that “tired” switch.

And do not continue to eat and eat until the early morning. Digestion slows when we sleep, which can lead to indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux that can wake us up, Knutson said.

“Ideally, we should stop eating 2 hours or more before we want to fall asleep. If you are hungry before bed, a light snack is fine, but heavy and rich foods should be avoided,” she said via email.

All of these holiday sweets, especially if eaten on an empty stomach while waiting for a meal, can cause blood sugar or blood sugar fluctuations. Keeping your blood stable throughout the day is better for the body.

When blood sugar rises, it triggers the release of insulin, which removes glucose from the blood, Malin said.

“Dips in blood glucose due to insulin-promoting clearance from body cells may promote feelings of ‘crash’. At the same time, consumption of sugar-based foods later in the evening may promote flare-ups energy that delay sleep, making it harder to fall asleep,” he said via email.

While many of us believe alcohol helps us fall asleep, it actually impairs the quality of sleep, Dasgupta said.

“Remember that alcohol can put you to sleep faster and sleep more soundly during the first part of the night. However, alcohol can disrupt your sleep during the second half of the night,” he said .

Alcohol acts as a suppressor on the brain, so when we drink a little too much (or too late in the evening), we experience drowsiness. However, by the middle of the night, the liver will have finished metabolizing alcohol into a stimulant called acetaldehyde, according to Dr. Bhanu Kolla, an addiction psychiatrist and sleep medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic.

“Therefore, if you drink too much alcohol right before you go to bed, in about four hours it turns into aldehyde, which can disrupt sleep and wake you up,” Kolla told CNN during an interview. previous interview.

If you’re in deep, restorative sleep around the time you wake up, it shuts down the brain’s ability to repair and restore cells.

Similar to eating, try to stop drinking at least two hours before bed to minimize its impact on your sleep, Knutson said.

Many people look forward to that holiday siesta and often point to the turkey as the cause. First, a bit to bust the myths: Turkey is not the culprit.

“Turkey tryptophan is unlikely to enter the brain and produce enough serotonin to put us to sleep,” Malin said.

In fact, you’d have to eat about 8 pounds for the turkey to have an effect, Malin said. Instead, it’s the rich, processed foods, such as candied sweet potatoes or pecan pie, that tire you out.

If you do decide to take a nap, be sure not to take it too soon after eating, Dasgupta suggested.

“In general, it’s never a good idea to go to bed right after a big meal, especially if you have heartburn. Also, if you’re someone who suffers from insomnia, I wouldn’t recommend taking a nap,” he said.

“But if you’re sleep deprived from a long trip, haven’t slept much the night before, and it’s not too late in the day, a 15-20 minute nap is fine. “, he added by e-mail. “Don’t blame the nap on the turkey!”

If you suffer from anxiety, depression or seasonal affective disorder (a condition that causes sadness when there is less daylight), monitoring your sleep is essential, experts said.

“Depression and sleep are linked. Poor sleep can alter our mood, and depression can lead to unhealthy sleep,” Knutson said.

Calming strategies can include a relaxing transition before going to sleep in which you can take a bath, meditate, or listen to calming words. music, she said.

To help calm your mind, leave a notepad by your bedside so you can jot down any to-do items that might come to mind when you’re trying to fall asleep, Knutson suggested.

Another effective strategy is regular exercise. According to experts, it plays an important role in sleep and depression because it alleviates stress and promotes the release of “feel-good” hormones called endorphins.

“Exercise improves sleep by reducing drowsiness, which means it takes less time to fall asleep and decreases the time spent in bed awake at night,” Dasgupta said.

“Studies have shown that exercise helps people with insomnia fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and enjoy better quality sleep,” he said. “Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress and depression which have been common issues for people during the holidays.”

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