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Stress hormones up around holidays, making sleep more difficult

December 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Few people realize the connection between sleep and hormones. This holiday season it affects both men and women. You can make small changes to get your sleep schedule under control.

Holiday shopping, get-togethers, gift-wrapping, decorating -- if we didn't have time to sleep before, we certainly have less time now. But experts warn us you just can't get used to a lack of sleep.

Studies show lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and increases risk of traffic accidents.

The recommended amount of nightly sleep is seven hours.

But first: Fix your alarm clock.

Hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Experts remind us that the most restorative part of your sleep, your rapid eye movement (REM) cycle, happens in the morning. So when you're constantly waking up:

"Really disrupts the normal rhythm of getting into those deeper, more restorative stages of sleep," said Dr. Steven Rabin, Advanced Gynecology Solutions.

Rabin says it's better to wake up a little later than to play with your snooze button.

"It's really best to set the alarm for when you really have to get up, and get up," said Rabin.

Rabin says his patients are constantly sabotaging their sleep and don't know it. And this time of year, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol often kick in.

"When you're stressed and when you're wound up, the levels never go down," said Rabin.

A perfect example is when you've had a full day and you see a sink full of dishes. When you break through your fatigue and get your second wind is when your body gets tired, but stays wired. Dr. Rabin's advice: Recognize that first wave of fatigue and go to bed right then.

"You're getting a doctor's prescription: My orders are you can leave the sink full of dishes and clean them up the next day."

Another hormone that people need to pay attention to is melatonin. It's secreted through the pineal gland in the brain. To help program your body Rabin recommends people get themselves into daylight or sunshine when they wake up, and power down at night by making their bedroom as dark as possible.

"So by having light during the day and dark at night, that stimulates your body to make the melatonin, which gives you that deep restorative sleep," said Rabin.

To make your room as dark as possible, Rabin suggests pulling out the night lights and covering up your clock radio. Start doing this an hour before bedtime.


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