While raising my four children, I came to the stunning realization that if I was going to make it through the holidays, things were going to have to change.
Every December left me breathless – the holidays had become an unforgiving purveyor of incredible stress; every holiday season was a whirl wind of Christmas parties, school plays and travel plans. And every year, I had at LEAST one child sick with the flu, chickenpox, or the stomach bug.
After getting the flu three years in a row (I’m a slow learner) during or right after the holidays, I decided “Enough!”
I’m thoroughly convinced that sleep deprivation caused me to get sick those three years. Unfortunately, when we need it the most, the first thing we toss out when we get busy is sleep. To keep up with the flurry of activity that surrounds the season, most of us stay up late or wake up early just to keep things together.
But this can be a huge mistake, because sleep deprivation is serious business. A normal healthy person can live for a month without food – but sleep? We can survive no longer than two weeks without it.
Just one night of missed sleep begins a downward spiral. The first night of no sleep makes us irritable and tired. The second night destroys our ability to concentrate and after three days of sleeplessness, delirium can set in.
Although it’s impossible to eliminate all of the added stress that comes during Christmas, there are some extra measures we can take to keep quality sleep a priori:
- Come home early enough from the office Christmas party to allow yourself to wind down before heading to bed immediately
- Avoid alcohol — some folks have the mistaken notion that since alcohol is a depressant, it can help them sleep. Not so! In fact, alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns in a major way
- Limit rich food, especially if you’re not used to it. All of those sugar laden desserts and rich, gooey appetizers can throw our systems off balance
Finally, give yourself permission to “say no” – no Christmas party or holiday outing is worth compromising our sleep, and ultimately our health, in the long run.