7 Ways Vacation Messes With Your Sleep — And What To Do About It
If you sleep eight hours a night like sleep experts suggest you do, you will sleep roughly one-third of your life. From nights where you don't sleep much at all, to the nights where you sleep more than enough, if you live to be 75, you will have slept about 25 years of it. Or, you'll at least have attempted to sleep 25 years of it because, for some, getting a good night's sleep is difficult. And changes to our lives and schedule make it even more difficult.
"Our bodies and minds respond well to routine," Mike Kisch, sleep expert and CEO/co-founder of Beddr, tells Bustle. "The more consistent we can be in the time we go to bed and the time we wake up, the more we train our bodies and our circadian rhythms."
Because our bodies need routine, especially when it comes to sleep, everything from time changes, to different sounds, to even different beds, can throw our sleep for a loop. Of course, on a vacation you want to be well-rested so you can actually enjoy your trip without being exhausted the entire time. So what can you do?
Here are seven ways vacation messes with your sleep and what you can do about it.
1. Challenges With Sound
If you're a country person who's in the city on a trip, those sounds that are completely foreign (and loud!) to you can keep you up. Just as if you're a city person and you're vacationing in the country, the silence can absolutely keep you up too.
"Use a white noise machine to drown out the noise," certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site, Julia Walsh, tells Bustle. "Or turn the radio in the hotel room to a station that is off air."
White noise is a perfect way to lull yourself to sleep no matter if you're blocking out sound or trying to have a bit of sound.
2. Early Morning Flights
You might think that getting up early and flying out at the crack of dawn is a good way to start your vacation, but if you're flying to another time zone, it really isn't. It's best to leave at night so you can, ideally, sleep a bit on the plane.
"Try not to plan your flight as early in the morning as possible to make sure you don’t start off your [vacation] being sleep deprived," Dr. Els van der Helm, sleep expert and founder of Shleep, tells Bustle. "The jet lag might result in a lack of sleep, so starting off your [vacation] already being sleep deprived will only make things worse."
3. Time Changes
Of course, time changes are going to mess with your sleep and the greater the time difference from where you started to where you're going, the more difficult it can be to get on track.
"If it is a short trip (a weekend or a short business trip) stay on your home time zone instead of switching your body to the time zone you traveled to (go to bed at the same time and if possible get up at the same time as well)," says Walsh. "If you must switch time zones (if your trip is longer than 3-4 days or because of time commitments) then switch to the new time zone as soon as you arrive at your destination."
4. Get Into A New Schedule ASAP
Even if you're eating breakfast in the morning at the place where you're vacationing, if it's a big leap in time difference, you're actually not — at least not by your body's standards.
Walsh says switching meals and sleep, as soon as you can, will get your body adjusting to the new schedule as soon as possible.
"Also, make the transition back to your home time zone as soon as you return," says Walsh. "Your body will adjust more quickly to the correct time zone and jet lag will be minimized as well."
Because a healthy body needs to be hydrated, it should come as no surprise that being dehydrated would affect one's ability to sleep and sleep well. The way to stay on top of that is to never be without water when you travel — especially if you're flying.
"Stay hydrated. I cannot stress this enough," Dr. Tania Elliott, board-certified allergist, internist, and chief medical officer at EHE tells Bustle. "Bring at least one liter of water with you on the flight — and pick an aisle seat if you have a small bladder. Lack of hydration is one of the key reasons you get headaches and feel lack-luster and devoid of energy when you get off the plane."
Dr. Elliot also says to stay away from alcohol and caffeine. Not only do both work to disrupt sleep, but they also contribute to dehydrating you.
6. Different Beds
Even the most comfortable bed in the world can mess with your vacation. Why? Because it's not your bed.
Walsh suggests bringing your own pillow so you can feel like you're home. If you're traveling with kids, then bringing a sheet from their bed will help them sleep better. When we sleep, familiarity is key.
7. A New Routine Before Bed
According to Walsh, our bodies are used to falling asleep after the same routine. So if you always brush your teeth, then read a bit before going to sleep, make sure you do the same on vacation. You may think that not sticking to your usual bedtime routine won't affect your ability to sleep, but it will.
"Follow your normal routine to help your body fall into sleep more easily," says Walsh.
Vacations are meant to get us out of our usual surroundings and relax. But it's hard to relax if you're exhausted. If you make sure you stay on track, as far as your sleep habits go, you'll find it's much easier to get the sleep you need and, therefore, you'll enjoy your vacation so much more.