During this holiday season in particular, many of you will find yourselves worn down, tired and stressed to the max just finishing your duties. Racing around trying to create perfect holiday memories for family, friends and coworkers can result in you seriously depleting your bank account, but also your sleep account.
If you don’t take care of yourself and monitor the number of hours you sleep, it’s easy to suffer tiredness, stress and a lower quality of life because you are experiencing sleep debt.
Your sleep debt is simply not getting enough hours of sleep to feel really refreshed. This is understandable. I spoke with a young mother of two daughters that was working part time, teaching an exercise class and taking several others classes for her own well being.
In addition to this, which could be enough to create sleep debt, her husband is going to be traveling at this time of the year so she is decorating the house, and buying all of the gifts for Christmas, as well as planning a family get away to a cabin in the mountains in hopes of experiencing some snow. Whew!
I understand this schedule. My wife and I experienced a frantic life of trying to keep all of the balls in the air at Christmas when our daughter’s were little. And I remember the fatigue of it all, not at the time it was happening, but several weeks later.
We scheduled a weekend away from the children the following January. After dropping off the girls with their grandparents, we headed to what we thought would be a wonderful trip to Monterey. We checked into the room, had a glass of wine, but no dinner, and then slept solid for the next 13-hours.
Dr. Lawrence Epstein in his book, The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep advises us to avoid regarding sleep as an indulgence or luxury. Rather, we should recognize that adequate sleep is just as important for health as diet and exercise are. To that end, he offers the following advice:
- Settle short-term debt. If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully.
- Address a long-term debt. Plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations. Then, turn off the alarm clock and just sleep every night until you awake naturally. Currently known as a “sleepcation!”
- Avoid backsliding into a new debt cycle. Once you’ve determined how much sleep you really need, factor it into your daily schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day — at the very least, on weekdays.
I wonder how Santa Claus does it all?