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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Watch Out for Santa! He's Sleep-Deprived and Tipsy

Published December 16, 2010 11:37 AM by Valerie Newitt
"Ho, ho, ho" is the calling card of the jolly man in red. But no one will be laughing if this sleep-deprived world traveler crashes his team of reindeer through the rooftop. Is there insurance for that?

And that's only the tip of the Santa scare... What about the degraded cognitive capabilities of this portly gent? Add to his sleep deprivation the effects of hot-buttered rum and whiskey-spiked eggnog waiting at the bottom of too many chimneys, and his, er, "driving" must be called to task. No wonder he zig-zags across the wintry sky.

You might even say Mr. Claus is a public menace! In fact, that's exactly the claim of sleep experts Prof. Franco Cappuccio and Dr. Michelle Miller of Britain's University of Warwick Medical School. The pair have recently co-authored a book Sleep, Health and Society (Oxford University Press) and have publicly applied their insights to the seasonal example of one S. Clause (elves and reindeers included).

Here's their statement, in part, released via AFP news agency: "Santa Claus and his team of elves and reindeers stay awake for days and nights so he can deliver presents to children all over the world for Christmas. But he could be putting his and their health at risk. Lack of sleep will make him drowsy, his vigilance will fade and his ability to think and remember will diminish. There is a risk to himself and others - he could fall asleep at the reins and crash his sleigh."

Hmmm. Physicists have determined that after factoring in global time zones, the international dateline, and rotation of the planet, Santa has 31 hours to deliver presents to the 100 million homes where Christmas is celebrated. So, that would make him a speed demon, too, traveling at roughly 650 miles per second to do the yearly run.

While Santa seems to have avoided the pesky nuisance of being instantly vaporized by air friction, there are other health hazards he faces: Diabetes! Obesity! Have you seen the gut on that guy? The result of a sugarplum overdose, no doubt. Forget the cookies and libations this year. Be kind, and leave him a celery stick and a strong cup of java instead.

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