How Santa survives the all-nighter

U. WARWICK (UK) — According to sleep experts Franco Cappuccio and Michelle Miller from the University of Warwick, Santa Claus may be putting his health at risk by staying up all night to deliver gifts.

The two offer a little lighthearted advice—for Santa and the rest of us—on how to stay healthy while coping with less sleep and a much longer to-do list.

Is Santa Claus at risk by staying up all night on Christmas Eve to prepare for the big day?
Considering that he does it only once a year, it may not be too bad for his long-term health. However, in the short term there are risks. Lack of sleep will make him drowsy, his vigilance will fade, and his ability to think and remember will diminish.

There is risk for himself and others: He could fall asleep at the reins and crash his sleigh, he could even end up delivering the wrong present to the wrong person.

Should Santa sleep longer in the run up to the festive period to offset the lack of sleep he gets over the Christmas holiday?
I doubt Santa would have the time to sleep in preparation for Christmas. I know he and his team are busy going through the lists coming from all over the world, sorting presents and loading his sleigh. I expect they have a few sleepless nights ahead of Christmas Eve too but it would be good for him to be as well rested as possible.

While a little nap on a rooftop here and there (no more than 20 minutes) might help in the short term, it is no substitute for a good 8 hours of sleep at night.

Should Santa rely on caffeine to stay awake at the reins?
A large cup of coffee could be a quick solution for a little while. It will usually have an effect after about 20 minutes. Do not rely, however, on repeating this several times. The effect will reduce with time, and he may also suffer unpleasant side effects, like palpitations and high blood pressure.

What about the reindeer? Is there any evidence that suggests they are also damaging their health by flying all night long?
Every single living creature sleeps—and for a reason. However, both the duration and the patterns vary considerably from species to species. In general, wakefulness in animals is a survival function needed to feed and to keep predators away.

Deer normally nap during the day and are quite active at night. For Rudolph and his mates, as long as they are well rested beforehand, they should be ready for the long trip around the world.

For some families it’s a tradition to leave Santa mince pies and alcohol. Will having these treats make Santa feel sleepier?
Santa will definitely feel hungry after a sleepless night, since sleep deprivation increases appetite, so he appreciates a bit of grub to keep him going. Since sleep debt also leads to obesity, his pot belly is not a surprise to us.

Don’t leave him any booze, though! His sleepiness and tiredness already brings his attention to the level of someone who is over the alcohol limit, and there’s the added risk of him crashing his sleigh.

How should Santa recover after his busy night?
Surely Santa will feel jet-lagged at the end of his trip! To deliver presents at exactly midnight all around the world he will have to spend 24 hours in trans-meridian travel with rapid changes in time zones and little time for his body clock to adapt.

He will travel in darkness all the time, so he will be more likely to fall asleep. Catch-up sleep helps to recover from the short-term tiredness and fatigue, but will not help avoid the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation. If he were to do this all year round, he would definitely run the risk of dying prematurely.

Santa only makes this journey once a year, and if he follows a little advice, he’ll remain fresh and zippy.

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