How to eat and sleep this Thanksgiving weekend

With our Vancouver office celebrating the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, it seemed like a good time to share a few tips to help minimize the impact of weekend activities on your fatigue levels:

If you had a busy work week and only slept six hours a night, you are already heading into the weekend with a sleep deficit. Sleeping in may help reduce the deficit, but may not be enough to allow you to recover from a week of insufficient sleep. A recent study from Penn State University restricted participants sleep to only six hours for a period of five days. On the following two days, the volunteers were permitted to sleep for ten hours. Performance tests were conducted at the start of the study, after the five day period of reduced sleep, and then again at the end. The study concluded that even after two days of sleeping in, the subjects did not fully recover their ability to concentrate, suggesting that “recovery sleep over just a single weekend may not reverse all the effects of sleep lost during the workweek.”

Our advice: Take the extra day this weekend to try and narrow your sleep deficit. Sleep in, take naps, but aim to maintain a schedule of eight hours of nightly sleep next week.

Digestion, much like sleep, is controlled by the body’s circadian rhythm and has it’s own cycle of activity and rest. If you’re planning on enjoying a heavy turkey dinner, plan to serve dinner early. Since digestion naturally slows down at night, heavy and fatty foods consumed late in the evening will be difficult to digest and interfere with your ability to have quality sleep. Research shows that how you eat will also impact your fatigue. Metro UK reports that “adrenaline effectively shuts down digestion” – so if you’re planning to ‘eat and run’ in an effort to make it to various holiday social engagements, you’re shutting down your body’s ability to digest your dinner.

Our advice: Eat early, relax and enjoy a leisurely dinner with your Thanksgiving companions.

It’s nice to enjoy a glass of wine with festive meals but be careful not to overdo it. Too much alcohol disrupts sleep patterns – making it difficult to maintain the deep sleep stage, which is “when the body restores itself“. If you’re not getting deep sleep, you’re going to wake up fatigued no matter how long you stay in bed. It is recommended not to drink alcohol in the last few hours before going to sleep.

Our advice: If you feel thirsty after dinner drink water – just not too much right before bed, and definitely skip the post-dinner coffee.

Turkey often gets the blame for holiday weekend fatigue, but science shows that when and how you eat and sleep, will have an impact on the quality of sleep you get and your fatigue levels heading into the following work week.

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg: “I’d force myself to get more sleep.”

It’s hard to imagine that anyone holding a COO position at Facebook and ranked among the most powerful and influential business leaders would admit to many regrets in the building of their career, but Sheryl Sandberg has one thing she would go back and change – the amount of sleep she got. In her widely popular book ‘Lean In‘ (currently in it’s 24th week on the NY Times bestseller list), Sheryl addresses the need for people to feel like they can do it all and the “new normal” in the American workplace – including longer working hours and technology that makes it difficult for us to turn off work and go to sleep. Feeling like there were never enough hours in the day to juggle work and family, she dealt with the demands “by skimping on sleep” and admits that it was “a common but often counterproductive approach… Sleep deprivation just makes people anxious, irritable and confused.”

Sheryl backs up her statements on work and sleep with a number of studies and resources, including the Harvard Business Review’s publication on ‘Sleep Deficit”, which equates mental impairment by sleep deprivation from four or five hours of sleep a night with that of a legally impaired blood alcohol level.

“If I could go back and change one thing about how I lived in those early years,” Sheryl says, “I would force myself to get more sleep.”

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the understanding that a good night’s sleep can actually help, not hinder your career doesn’t have to be.