Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Fighting Holiday Fatigue: How to make it to Midnight

The holidays can be rough on your body. Between dinners, parties, eating insane amounts of cookies, and travelling, by the time you make it to New Year’s Eve you may find yourself teetering on your feet like a character in Mortal Combat with “Finish Him!” flashing over your head. The most obvious manifestation of the holiday grind is fatigue. As you struggle to get all your shopping done and make it to the necessary relatives’ houses at the same time that you constantly adjust your sleep schedule, it is totally understandable to end up extremely tired. However, understandable as it may be, December shows no mercy. We cap off this exhausting time of year by ritualistically staying up until midnight. Fortunately, a keen understanding of science can help you boost your energy and make it to the ball drop alert and possibly even in a good mood.


The first key to the energy puzzle is eating the right foods. While you may be tempted to load up on sugar to propel you into the night, holiday favourites like cookies and chocolates are a bad idea. Sure, they will give you a boost immediately after you eat them as your blood sugar spikes, but empty calories burn through quickly, after which you will be saddled with a sugar crash. Likewise, you’ll want to take it easy on any leftover Christmas turkey, as the natural tryptophan will make you groggy and longing for a nap. Instead you’ll want to reach for foods that will provide you with stable energy over the long haul. Foods that take longer to digest and that are rich in nutrients are your best bets. WebMD recommends peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, yoghurt, nuts, and carrots with low-fat cream cheese.


With all the running around and socializing you’re bound to do at the New Year’s Eve party of your choosing, it is easy to forget to drink water. To make things worse, there will likely be a steady flow of wine, champagne, eggnog, and other festive libations at hand which will drain your body of water even more (alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you pee a lot), while the depressive effects make you want to sleep. But when you want to stay awake, water is your friend. Keeping properly hydrated allows all your body’s systems to function more efficiently so you waste less energy. Staying hydrated also keeps your body temperature more stable. Predictable metabolism is the key to your body making effective use of the fuel you provide it with. All great reasons to keep a glass of nature’s magic elixir close by on your way to the countdown.


Another important factor in fighting fatigue is arranging your surroundings to promote energy. Your body naturally picks up on a lot of external cues, including temperature and light exposure, and adjusts your internal clock accordingly. Anyone who has ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder understands that as the days get shorter and light gets more scarce, it is natural to feel less energetic and even depressed. If you are hosting a New Year’s Eve party and want to keep your guests awake and engaged, make sure the room is well lit. You may also want to invite a lot of people to keep conversations dynamic and ongoing. Experts agree that engaging in mentally stimulating activities – like talking to other people – can help keep energy levels high.


Finally, and somewhat confusingly if you read our article last week about how to make yourself fall asleep, exercise is a great way to moderate your energy levels. While working out at high intensity can definitely exhaust you, working out at a moderate level for 20 to 30 minutes can actually give you an energy boost. Doing so regularly can also help with that whole efficiency thing we’ve been talking about. Keeping your body in tip-top shape will make the most of the energy you already have.

When you have the energy to make it through the party without fixating on getting to sleep, New Year’s Eve can potentially be one of the highlights of your holiday season. If you plan ahead and avoid leaning on shortcuts like caffeine (or PCP), you will find yourself happy, healthy, and awake right up until the clock strikes midnight.