When planned well, a summer vacation is the perfect opportunity to rest, recharge and reconnect with family and friends. Plus, getting some much time away is a proven method for effectively managing stress. So why do we often feel we need a vacation after our vacation?
Even the most relaxing location can ultimately drain you if you don’t get enough sleep. Getting ample rest while on the road is easier said than done — time zone changes, irregular schedules, uncomfortable airplanes or cars and even unfamiliar surroundings can contribute to poor sleep quality and insomnia.
Don’t let sleep deprivation ruin your summer vacation. Check out these 8 simple (but super effective) tips and tricks for better sleep while traveling.
Don’t underestimate your pillow.
The quality of your sleep surface (i.e. your mattress) should be your number one priority when it comes to quality sleep. Your pillow also plays a starring role in how well you snooze, so make sure you pack your favorite pillow when you set off on your vacation.
This is an especially good idea if you’ll be sleeping on a couch or in a sleeping bag during your trip. Even if your sleep surface isn’t especially comfortable, a good pillow will help maintain better spinal alignment and comfort.
Pro tip: If you’re heading somewhere relatively warm, make sure to bring along a pillow made with breathable open-cell foam that promotes airflow. Since sleeping hot is a major contributor to insomnia, this is a surefire way to sleep better.
Not sure if you’re pillow is up to snuff? Check out our tips for choosing the perfect pillow for your sleep position and needs.
Stock up on natural sleep aids.
Heavy duty sleeping pills like Ambien and Lunesta can be a godsend for those that suffer from chronic insomnia, but they might not be the best choice for flights. That’s because sedative-hypnotic medications like prescription-grade sleeping pills have side effects like retroactive amnesia and sleepwalking.
Instead, try stockpiling a few natural sleep aids like melatonin supplements, Valerian root or Theanine. All boost hormone production in the brain that help you doze off without the side effects.
Consider your clothing.
If you plan to fly or drive for hours to get to your destination, make sure you wear clothes that you’ll be comfortable sleeping in. Layers are your friend when it comes to travel, especially because temperatures can fluctuate widely while on the road (and feeling either too warm or too cold will surely impact the quality of your sleep).
Breathable materials like organic cotton, bamboo and linen are a great choice for travel, since greater airflow will keep you feeling fresh and comfortably cool. Avoid tightly fitting clothing or anything with straps or bands that dig in, too. Tight clothes can restrict blood flow to your limbs and make it harder to get comfortable.
Downsize your blackout curtains.
You don’t always have control over when you get shuteye during vacation, especially when you’re on the road. Light — especially blue light — suppresses melatonin production in the brain, which can make it harder to get to sleep and stay that way.
To help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep, bring along a sleep mask that cuts out light just like blackout curtains. If you’re prone to headaches during travel, try a sleep mask with cooling beads — these can help fend off airplane-induced tension headaches.
Think about sound.
Despite popular belief, it’s not the presence of sound that keeps people awake — it’s actually the unexpected changes in sound that jolts us out of dreamland. During travel, these sudden changes in your sound environment are inevitable — whether it’s the family chatting during a road trip or the sound of flight attendants during a flight.
If you’re committed to getting some shuteye in transit, bring along a pair of noise canceling headphones or, at the very least, a pair of quality earplugs. Dulling or completely eliminating environmental sound will make it easier to doze off and stay asleep, especially if you’re in a particularly noisy environment.
Maintain your wind-down routine.
The bedrock of quality sleep is a great wind-down routine, since a few well-timed evening rituals help signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to throw these relaxing habits out the window.
Before you set off on your vacation, take stock of your evening routine — and decide which can come on the road with you. If you’re used to taking a warm shower before bed, bring along a heating pad to help lull you to sleep. If you listen to particular sleep-inducing music in the evenings, make sure to download and store that playlist in your phone.
Plan ahead for a time difference.
If you’re heading to a different state or country where there’s a significant time difference, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. In the week leading up to your trip, get to bed incrementally earlier or later than usual so your body has time to catch up. Trying to shift your sleep schedule all in one day is a surefire way to feel the effects of jetlag, so use your pre-vacation time wisely.
Get plenty of natural light.
Light is an extremely important part of your body’s natural sleep and wake rhythm. Natural light in particular signals when it’s time for your brain to produce hormones like sleepy melatonin or wakeful cortisol.
During your trip, make sure you’re spending as much time as possible outside soaking up the sun. When traveling either by car or plane, make a point to watch the sunset (if it happens while you’re on the road). This will signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep, and consequently help you doze off.
No matter how well you plan ahead for your summer vacation, if you’re not getting quality sleep on a regular basis, you’ll feel the effects of sleep deprivation. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, your mattress might be the issue. Talk to a Sleep Expert about how a new mattress could be the answer to all of your sleep problems!