You might be dreaming of sugarplums and Fitbits on Christmas Eve, but Santa will be working the night shift. And after he finishes delivering goodies around the world, and, hopefully, paying his reindeer for their 12-ish hours of manual labor, Santa may want to ride his sleigh to a sleep clinic. At least that's what Franco Cappuccio, a sleep researcher at the University of Warwick, said last year in an interview about Santa and his sleep deprivation.
“Lack of sleep [on Christmas Eve] will make him drowsy, his vigilance will fade and his ability to think and remember will diminish,” Cappuccio said. “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.”
Cappuccio recommended that Santa take periodic 20-minute naps throughout the night, supplement all that milk with one — and only one — large cup of coffee, since any more could lead to heart palpitations or high blood pressure, and kindly refuse any alcohol left out for him by families who've neglected to consider the dangers of encouraging overworked sleigh-drivers to drink on the job. His bowl-of-jelly physique makes sense to Cappuccio, given the link between skipping sleep and noshing on junk.
But, given that Santa only pulls one all-nighter a year (that we know of), Cappuccio doesn’t think he'll suffer any long-term consequence of sleep deprivation. Were he to do this all year, however, Santa would be on his way to an early grave, Cappuccio says. “However, children be reassured...he only does it once a year for all of us, and by following my instructions, he will remain fresh and zippy.”
Cappuccio isn't the only scientist spending time dissecting Santa's poor lifestyle habits. "Santa Studies" is something of a niche discipline in public health. The lack of rigorous research on Santa Claus' occupational hazards is, by some accounts, disappointing. "Santa encounters a number of transportation-related hazards that are not present for other workers in regulated transportation industries," wrote study authors in a 2015 paper called "The Occupational health of Santa Claus."
Sleep issues are among a number of labor and safety grievances Santa could list in a legal complaint (at least in Canada, given that the researchers in question work at the University of Alberta). To name a few others: His seasonal, time-zone-spanning job leaves him vulnerable to jet lag and mood disorders; his sleigh isn't equipped with airbags or seatbelts; and who knows whether or not his insurance will cover medical expenses in the event of a crash-landing. And, given that he's likely 95 percent larger than his co-workers (elves), study authors pointed out, "he would likely require a dedicated ergonomic assessment and adjustment of the shared work environment in order to prevent progressive-onset musculoskeletal disorders."
So this year, hold the Entenmanns and leave Santa what he really needs: superfoods and the name of a crackerjack labor lawyer.