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Sleep Health

Looking After Your Sleep During The Festive Season

The festive season can be a fun and exciting time for catching up with family and friends, as we often have more social gatherings such as parties, events and summer bbq’s!  And, Xmas 2020 will be no exception, in particular as most of Australia is finding its new normal post lockdown.  

Getting caught up in the hype of festivities usually involves eating and drinking, often over-consumption of food and drink – and of the unhealthy kind. (eg. mini pies, sausage rolls, chips, salted nuts, cakes, high fat restaurant food and an increase of alcohol).  All of these examples contribute significantly to our daily calorie requirement, which often leads to weight gain (an average of 1.5-2kg over the festive season) and potentially increasing the likelihood of developing sleep apnea, or exacerbating an existing OSA condition.  

If the body is deprived of sufficient, quality rest, sleep apnea sufferers experience significant stress on their cardiovascular, metabolic, and pulmonary systems.  In fact, one of the most common hospital presentations over the ‘silly season’ are from chest pains and heartache increasing by 5% on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day most likely resulting from severe stress, overexertion and over-eating.  

Additionally, an over-consumption of alcohol contributes to poor sleep quality as well as pronounced muscle relaxation around the airways.  As an effort to pull more oxygen into the system, a snorer can have four times greater resistance to breathing, particularly in the first hour of sleep.  Additionally, alcohol still remains as one of the biggest contributing factors to emergency department presentations in Australia on Xmas Day.

Taking care of your health these holidays doesn’t have to be hard and at a cost to your health.  Understanding your ‘why’ and applying these simple steps can avoid significant weight gain, stress and lowered immunity during this time.

1. Implementing a plan

Research shows that if we have a plan of how we are going to behave, we are more likely to follow through with them!

Strategic planning sets the direction and establishes your priorities to simplify your decision making for when being social. 

  • Start your day with breakfast, preferably with a small portion of protein included.  It sounds simple, but it sets you up for the day.  Your body functions at a better metobolic rate throughout the day and the temptation to pick later on is less likely
  • Eat something light before leaving home – if you arrive at a function or gathering hungry, you’ll be more likely to overeat.  Instead, eat something healthy before you head out the door
  • Account for ‘extras’ that you may consume at the gathering and plan your day’s meals/snacks accordingly
  • Take your favourite non-alcoholic drinks to the gathering, like a bottle of soda and a lime or a few ginger beers. This way you’re not missing out on drinking altogether and it may be a smart tactic to stop people asking you if you want a drink, every five minutes.
2. Be Mindful of Food Intake

Although the festive season is a wonderful time of bringing people together, practising mindful eating during these celebrations will help to avoid over-eating.  

  • observe how the food makes you feel and the signals your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness.
  • Listen to your stomach – eat slowly and stop when you are satisfied, not full.  
  • Keep your eye on portion sizes. It’s often not what you eat, but how much that can lead to overindulgence.
3. Weight Maintenance is the key

The Christmas season is not a time to try and lose weight.  Instead, focus on maintaining your current weight by being careful about your food and drink choices.

  • Limit or avoid deep fried finger foods such as spring rolls, sausage rolls, pies and highly processed foods such as crisps, cakes & chocolates.
  • Choose lower kilojoule options when you can such as vegetable sticks, healthy dips, sushi, sandwiches, frittatas and fruit salad.
  • For canapes and nibbles – go for small amounts. Try one of each and eat slowly and enjoy!
  • For buffet style – have more of fewer foods, rather than little of lots! You are more likely to eat less overall.
  • Alcohol is high in kilojoules and low in nutrients.  It doesn’t fill you up and can lead to overeating.  Slow your consumption by alternating with water, diet soft drink or soda water
4. Just Keep Moving – Just Keep Groovin’

Regular exercise not only will give you more energy to cope with the stress of the holiday bustle, but it can also help to compensate for some of your food overindulgences!

  • Ultimately, strive for a minimum of 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week.  That is only slotting in half an hour a day to exercise.
  • Make moderate physical activity part of the holiday fun to provide a balance to eating. Make social catch ups active.  Plan a walk, bike ride, a paddle at the pool or beach, a game of back-yard cricket, or take advantage of the park gym equipment that is now provided by local councils or free community events such as Park Run.
  • Choose the stairs instead of the elevator.  Great for the legs and cardio workout and it is often faster anyway!

So, in summary, the most important factors that will help avoid that post Christmas bulge and avoid compromising your sleep and overall health include:

  • Keep up daily healthy eating habits.
  • Avoid going to parties/social occasions hungry.
  • Choose small amounts of party foods and enjoy them.
  • Stand away from the food, and listen to your stomach!
  • Limit alcohol consumption and make smart choices when drinking. 
  • Continue regular exercise and increase incidental activity.
Wishing you a fabulous Festive Season!