Though the holidays are meant to be a joyful time of the year, oftentimes people experience more stress than usual. With impending deadlines, family gatherings to plan, and lots of travel, it can be hard to turn your brain off and get some sleep at night. However, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night or are waking up feeling tired, stress may not be the cause but rather the indicator.
1. You Were Gaining Weight before The Holidays
We know this time of year is hard on the waistline because of all of the parties and festivities: a coworker leaving homemade treats left in the lunchroom, an impromptu social hour in a neighbor’s driveway, the multiple family gatherings with many large meals. If you were already struggling to button your bottoms before the holidays, that could be a sign of a more serious sleep issue. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your metabolism slows to conserve energy. But “energy conservation” for humans means packing on the pounds.
Additionally, lack sleep can cause you to make bad eating decisions during the day. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people eat less breakfast and consume more snacks throughout the day. This is a result of your ventromedial hypothalamus—which also regulates aggressive behavior—being out of sync and making you hungry. A lack of sleep can increase your craving for unhealthy foods that are high in carbohydrates or sugar.
2. You’re Tired Even after Catching up on Sleep
Though we always recommend you stick to a consistent sleep schedule, sometimes you just need to sleep in on a Saturday. However, sleeping in on the weekends may not make you feel refreshed. After a certain sleep-debt threshold of 8-12 hours, your body simply is not going through enough sleep cycles (evidence says that four to five) to get fully rested. Naps might be better to restore your energy levels since they can deliver a restorative sleep cycle while maintaining body’s natural circadian rhythm.
If you’re still tired after catching up on sleep, this could be an indication that—though you may be getting enough sleep—you may not be getting good sleep. There may be something happening while you sleep that is disrupting your REM cycles and preventing your body from accomplishing all it needs to while you rest.
3. You Wake up Feeling like You’re Breathless
This is the most indicative sign of a real sleep issue. Habitual nightmares or anxiety can trigger the release of epinephrine hormone into your bloodstream. This hormone is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response, which dilates the pupils and increases your heartrate.
If you wake up suddenly once or several times in the night catching your breath, this is something different. Often it indicates there is restricted airflow that is inhibiting you from fully oxygenating your body. This is the simplest description of sleep apnea. To an outsider, it sounds exactly like snoring but with the added harm of slowing your metabolism, weight gain, daytime fatigue, and unrefreshing sleep. However, if your breathing doesn’t return to normal once you awaken, this could be the result of something more complicated.
If you’re experiencing one or two of these issues, we encourage you to take action and come in for a sleep study. If you’re experiencing all three of these issues, you may have a serious sleep condition known as sleep apnea. This condition, if left untreated, can cause high blood pressure, lung disease, or even a stroke.
Struggling with lack of sleep during the holidays? We’ve got plenty of options for you. Take back your sleep (so the holidays don’t leave you in a “holi-daze”) by visiting ENT specialist Dr. Pasha and his team. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest so you can breathe freely, day and night!