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Dec 25, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- DROWSY DRIVING A HOLIDAY PROBLEM

Sleep experts say holidays are prime time for "drowsy drivers" who travel late to visit relatives or pack in a huge Christmas dinner before heading home. Dr. Alon Avidan, of the University of Michigan Health Services, says to cut your risk of a drowsiness-related car accident get a good night's sleep -- seven to nine hours -- before hitting the road or a 15-minute nap and some caffeine if you have to drive after being awake for a while. Have a passenger along and make sure they stay awake so they can talk to you. On long drives, stop every 100 miles to stretch your legs or get a snack and some caffeine. He says avoid alcohol and any medications that might make you sleepy -- alcohol can amplify sleepiness caused by lack of sleep.


There are ways to get through the holidays without adding too much mental strain and depression, health experts advise. For people who are coping with depression or are vulnerable to a relapse, and for those at risk for developing depression, this time of year can be especially difficult. Dr. Sheila Marcus, clinical director of the Psychiatry Division at the University of Michigan Depression Center, says it is important to protect your sleep cycle during the holidays, which often bring disrupted routines. Maintaining exercise routines and using relaxation strategies also help keep your mood bright so try to carve out at least 30 minutes a day for yourself. Marcus says it also is important to eat regularly and avoid excessive use of alcohol. Finally, she says to manage your expectations of the holidays and try to create new celebrations -- especially if you've had a traumatic or stressful year.


The holidays do not have to derail your diet if you remember some simple suggestions from the National Kidney Foundation. The foundation is concerned about obesity because it can lead to diabetes, the No. 1 cause of kidney disease. The experts say one way to keep calories in check is to plan your meals. If you know you will have a big holiday feast later in the day, eat smaller portions of breakfast and lunch and limit fluids. Choose homemade foods -- and fresh foods -- when possible because they usually have a lower fat content than processed or prepared items. Bring a dish to share at gatherings -- something you know you can eat so you won't be tempted to hit the buffet table and dig into something really fattening. Stop eating when you are full -- even if Mom tries to push second helpings. Finally, take time to exercise -- it can burn off many of those extra calories.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the weight-loss drug Xenical for obese adolescents ages 12 to 16. Xenical manufacturer Roche says it is the first approval of its kind for a prescription weight-loss treatment. "This is very good news for adolescents struggling with overweight and obesity," said Dr. Marc S. Jacobson, attending physician and director of the Center for Atherosclerosis Prevention in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Schneider Children's Hospital of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Currently, about 15 percent of adolescents in the United States are obese and 30 percent are overweight. Poor dietary habits and physical inactivity have been identified as contributors to this growing health problem. Adolescents who are obese are at greater risk of being obese as adults and of developing serious health problems.


(EDITORS: For more information on DROWSY, contact the UM Sleep Disorders Center at (734) 936-9020. For more on DEPRESSION, go to For DIETING TIPS, call Lorette Murray at (800) 622-9010, ext. 137, and for OBESITY, Terence Hurley at (973) 562-2882 or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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