Many people find they sleep well away form home. Holidays mean time to relax and the opportunity to sleep longer and catch up on sleep. For some, travel can cause disruption in sleep and make it difficult to function during the day. Business travel may involve busy days followed by sleepless nights. Sleeping away from home is, for some people, a challenge that can be beaten with a little foresight and preparation.
Preparing to Sleep
Being aware of what encourages a good night’s sleep is the first step towards preparing to sleep away. Some people claim to be able to sleep anywhere. For others there are a number of factors that affect sleep. It is obviously not possible to take the entire bedroom with you or there would be no point in leaving home, but a few items can help create a sleep friendly environment.
Peace and quiet can be a problem in many hotels and it is sometimes possible to request a ‘quiet room’ in advance. If not, ask to change a noisy room on arrival. Most hotels are relatively soundproof but if noise from other rooms is keeping you awake, contact reception and ask them to ask your neighbours to keep the noise down.
Be prepared for extremes in temperature. Air conditioning can make even a tropical paradise into a chilly nightmare! Hotels can usually provide additional covers and extra pillows but it is a good idea to pack a few layers and some warm socks just in case.
A sleep mask, ear plugs and warm socks are easy to pack and useful on long flights. Many people have a familiar night time routine that helps them sleep. This may include a warm drink, relaxing bath or a few moments alone to relax.
Travelling across time zones affects sleep, making it difficult to sleep and causing daytime drowsiness. By starting to adjust to time zones before travel and staying with local time upon arrival most people adapt within a few days. Some people find that some vigorous exercise on arrival helps to ‘kick start’ the body, but for others it makes sense to avoid driving and challenging sports until the body and mind has adjusted. If possible, it is a good idea to avoid travelling late at night or early in the morning and try to take naps during the day if suffering from daytime drowsiness.
Medications can affect sleep. The use of antihistamines and other over the counter medications may have side affects that influence sleep. A combination of travel, medication and other factors can leave you sleepy and affect your holiday or travel. It is important to check with a GP or Pharmacist any side affects that may affect your sleep.
Herbal preparations containing valerian, hops and lemongrass help create a feeling of relaxation and are useful for travel. Bath preparations and the aromatherapy oils lavender and camomile can be used during travel and when staying away to help create a feeling of relaxation.
Adjusting to Sleep
Holidays and travelling involve changes in routine. It may mean eating different foods at different times and drinking more alcohol. Spicy foods and eating late at night make it difficult to fall asleep. More or less exercise may also affect the body’s ability to calm down and relax. Heavy exercise, large meals and alcohol are best avoided during the hours before bedtime. The occasional night without sleep may not be a problem on holiday as an afternoon ‘siesta’ may be all that’s needed in the short term but long term sleep loss affects health.
Business travel can result in regular sleep loss. Long term sleep loss can be damaging to health and lead to loss of concentration and other problems. Many travellers are getting insufficient sleep as they have insufficient time to adjust to changes in time zones and suffer from Jet Lag and the affects of Shift Work. Regular naps and adopting strategies to help sleep and relaxation can help the body adjust, but regular sleep disruption can have long term affects.
Increase in alcohol consumption may be difficult to avoid but regular heavy drinking leads to disrupted sleep and other health problems. It is a good idea to make sure that there is plenty of water available to drink during the night and any sleep loss is made up on subsequent nights.
Sun and Sleep
The body needs light and lack of sunlight can cause sleep problems and feelings of depression for some people. Exercising and regular exposure to light helps the body clock adjust and produce the right hormones to induce sleep. Sunburn should be avoided, not just for the health risks, but as it severely interferes with sleep.
Travel is part of life, but few people anticipate the effect it has on sleep. A recognition of the importance of sleep and how it influences how we feel during the day may encourage more people to include ‘sleep’ in their travel preparations.
- Peace and Quiet. Ask for a ‘quiet room’. Take a Sleep Mask and ear plugs.
- Warm and Comfortable. Take warm layers and socks.
- Be Prepared. Herbal drinks, aromatherapy oils and familiar sleep aids such as a favourite blanket or pillow can help sleep.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, spicy food and heavy exercise before bedtime.
- Be aware of Jet Lag and recognise symptoms to ensure travel safety.
- Try to catch up on lost night time sleep by taking naps.