“I need a vacation from my vacation.” Sound familiar? Whether you’re heading to Rio or Mount Rushmore, your summer vacation could sabotage your sleep. Jet lag, your hotel room, even alcohol can cheat you of deep, restful slumber and leave you feeling less than refreshed. Happily, our tips for a more restful vacation will have you sleeping better from start to finish.
Before You Hit the Road, Hit the Sheets
The night before a big trip, many people sleep as little as 5 hours or less from the stress of prepping and packing. But losing even as little as 1.5 hours can lead to grogginess, fatigue and unwanted symptoms the next day. It’s called sleep debt. And its effects can last all vacation long.
What you can do – Start by planning ahead. Avoid starting your trip in a sleep debt by being sure you get a solid 8 hours of sleep before you leave. It helps to begin packing at least a week in advance to avoid a late-night scramble. You can reduce your stress by prescheduling rides to the airport, printing boarding passes ahead of time and confirming reservations well in advance.
Jet Lag Is a Drag
When you fly across time zones, your internal clock isn’t matched to the day and night light cycles of your destination. That can disrupt your quality of sleep for days. On average, it takes one day per hour to adjust to the new time zone, according to WebMD.
What you can do – Pre-trip, gradually adjust your bedtime to match your new time zone. If possible, try to schedule your arrival time for the morning to become acclimated to a full day of light. Don’t forget to pack a sleep kit in your carry-on. A good sleep mask and earplugs can go a long way toward getting some in-flight shut-eye.
The New Bedroom Effect
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, people sleep poorly during their first night in a hotel room. Experts say the strangeness of a new bedroom is to blame. It can set us on edge, keeping our brains half awake and on the lookout all night long.
What you can do – Help make your room as cozy and primed for sleep as possible. Make sure you lower those light-blocking blinds and set the temperature between 65 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Use familiar bedtime rituals, like chamomile tea or reading to wind down.
Kick Allergy Attacks to the Curb
Often people travel to explore the great outdoors. Unfortunately pollen and insect bites can trigger allergies. Before you consider taking medication to fight off the sniffles, sneezes and itching, be aware that antihistamines in most over-the-counter allergy medications cause a drowsiness you don’t want on your vacation.
What you can do – While there’s no way to totally avoid the pollen and other outside irritants, you can reduce your exposure indoors. Before you go the medication route, try taking a shower before you hit the hay. Pollen can cling to your pajamas and your hair, so taking a shower before bed rinses it away and scrubs away dead skin cells (plus all that extra sunscreen).
There Is Such a Thing as Too Much R&R
Sipping mai tais while lounging by the pool and posting your suntanned selfies might sound like the ingredients of a dream vacation. However, they could also be the key to a less-than-restful one too.
Alcohol makes you sleepy, while blocking your ability to fall into a deep sleep. So when that last piña colada wears off, you could be up for hours. Same goes for reclining by the pool. Too much beach reclining and too little exercise could add up to a lot of tossing and turning at night. And those epic photos you’re posting at 11 p.m. on your phone? No amount of daylight can offset the negative blue-light effects on your sleep.
What you can do – Even a 30-minute walk can improve your sleep, and you can elevate your exercise with a morning beach jog or laps in the pool. It’s counterintuitive, but reducing your alcohol consumption in the evening can make a big difference in sleep quality. Finally, stay away from screens at least an hour before bedtime. We repeat: Turn them off, power them down, lock them up. Your well-rested selfies will thank you.