The food comas that will descend on many of us over the holidays may not actually come from the turkey, ham or other holiday meal. You'd have to eat about 40 pounds of the big bird on an empty stomach to get enough of that tryptophan enzyme to make you drowsy, and it does not work well in the presence of protein, so even if you did, that is not what is making you tired.
What will make you want to nod off, though, is the over-filling of fat-laden and sugary foods, the lackadaisical nature of endless TV watching--football, parades, movie marathons, you name it--and staying up late to hang with friends and family. Really late. Maybe with booze and board games. Or maybe just over coffee and another slice of pie a la mode with a sibling at the kitchen counter.
Least on everyone's list is exercise, which of course will help counter all those calories and the stress that holidays can sometimes bring.
I give you all permission to sleep as much as you like. If you've been working like a mad dog and feel like you haven't had a good night's sleep in a long while, then I hope you do put time on a bed or cozy couch at the top of your list. Just be careful not to let all the brouhahas of the Holiday (like family dramas and late-nights) steal your Zs.
And here's something else to keep in mind that intrigued me this morning: I just read about a new study pointing to the duality of exercise and sleep on reducing our risk for cancer. Even though the study looked only at women and the risk for colon and breast cancer specifically, I think it's good advice for anyone to consider.
With more studies, we may find out that exercise alone isn't enough to lower cancer risks. Much of the cancer-preventive benefit that may follow doing more physical activity could be undermined by lack of sufficient sleep. So we need to sleep well, too. Repeatedly (not just on holidays and vacations).
Cheers to good nights and active days long before those New Year's resolutions roll around.
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor