May 29 2014

Travel Destination: Sleep

Travel Destination:  Summer

Warm weather, your feet in the sand, a drink in your hand, and the sound of the ocean. Sound like a great vacation? While vacations do help us relax, they can also disturb sleep patterns, especially on long travel days. Lack of sleep and jet lag are common.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, our bodies work on circadian rhythms, a 24-hour cycle measured by the rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones, and other biological conditions. Our circadian rhythms often take several days to adjust when traveling to a new time zone, which produces jet lag. Whether you have a big trip planned this summer or you’re heading to a weekend getaway, here are some tips to help you get the best sleep when traveling.

Before Your Arrival

  • Opt for an overnight flight to keep your sleep cycle close to normal. With an early evening flight, you’ll be able to enjoy dinner at a reasonable time and you’ll be more likely to fall asleep on the plane. Remember to sleep on the plane according to your destination’s time of day. For shorter trips, plan your travel time around meals and sleep that best replicates a normal schedule.
  • If you’ll be traveling to another time zone, start to prepare a few days prior to the trip. Wake up and go to bed earlier for an eastbound trip or later for a westbound trip.
  • Avoid caffeine and overeating 12 hours before departing. Don’t forget that higher altitude quickens the effects of alcohol so be sure to avoid or limit alcohol prior to and during your trip. Stay hydrated while travelling by drinking plenty of water.

After Your Arrival

  • If you arrive at your destination at night, head to bed! If you arrive in the morning or afternoon, do not sleep or take a short nap. This will disrupt your sleep schedule and prevent your body from adjusting to a new time zone.
  • After arriving, check your sleep environment for disturbances that may prevent you from getting sleep. Adjust the curtains or check for fixable in-room noise.
  • Avoid heavy meals upon arriving so your digestive system can regulate, and stick to eating according to your new time zone.
  • If you’re concerned about oversleeping, speak to the front desk about wake up calls or other services they offer.
  • Head outside and explore your new destination with a brisk walk! Getting sunlight and remaining active will help your brain adjust.

For more information on sleep during travelling and jet lag, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

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