Holiday sleep tips

better sleep while travellingIt’s holiday season and many South Africans are travelling, whether locally or abroad. We all know that sleeping in a different bed can disrupt your sleep patterns, and this year, holiday stresses have the added concerns around COVID-19 to consider. Then there’s what’s known as “first-night effect”, which is caused by part of your brain being more vigilant in a new environment to monitor your unfamiliar environment. Thankfully, there are loads of things you can do to improve your chances of sleeping well while away from home.

We’ve got some tips from Drew and Jonathan Scott, hosts of HGTV’s Property Brothers, who have travelled the world extensively, on to avoid skimping on sleep and how to maintain routines to keep you energised.

Traveling healthy starts long before your journey

For anyone who travels, your focus on wellness begins at home, long before heading to the airport. “The key to stress-free traveling is going into the trip well-rested,” says Drew. “If you have an early-morning flight, don’t bank on sleeping on the plane – go to sleep earlier than usual the night before. And that’s even more important if you are driving!”

To keep last-minute travel panic to a minimum, being organised is key:

  • Pack sooner rather than later
  • Make lists of what you need on your trip and check off items as you go
  • If you’re flying, prep your liquid toiletries in a sealed bag to prevent leakage during transit. Fill another bag with your non-liquid essentials, such as dry cosmetics, first-aid essentials and a sewing kit.
  • Consider taking noise-cancelling headphones and a comfortable neck pillow on the plane or in the car if it will help you to get some rest while travelling.

The day before you leave for a trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure, try to fit in some exercise to shake off pre-trip stress. Then ensure you get a great night’s sleep by sticking to your regular bedtime routine. Focus on calming your mind as you drift off to sleep. For last-minute tasks you fear forgetting, have a pad and pen next to your bed to jot them down when you wake up.

Managing jet lag during international travel

If you’re going to be crossing multiple time zones, you might find it helpful to shift your bedtime leading up to the trip. “If it’s a short trip (a day or two) try to stick as close as possible to your home time zone,” says Drew. “And use room darkening blinds if needed to regulate light in your hotel room.”

While dealing with jet lag might be unavoidable during long-distance travel, you can mitigate some of its effects before and during the flight.

Michael Breus, a.k.a. The Sleep Doctor, a clinical psychologist, based in California, says that jet lag affects everyone differently, with common complaints ranging from feeling irritable and exhausted to clumsy and slow. He suggests bringing a bottle of water on your flight. “We breathe in dry air which can dehydrate the body,” he adds. “It can also contribute to the fatigue, miserable and irritable feelings one has post-flight.”

Upon arrival at your destination, Breus recommends getting as much direct sunlight as possible during the day. It’s an effective way to shift your internal body clock to your new time zone. Resist the temptation to crawl into bed when you arrive at your hotel. When you’re just too tired to function well, it’s okay to have a short nap – but no more than an hour. Anything longer will interfere with your circadian rhythms, the cycle that controls your wake and sleep cycle, says Breus.

Breus also notes that regular meals will help you get into the swing of your new time zone, even if you’re not hungry. Order a light meal to nudge your natural biorhythm into the local time zone.

Manage your device time and coffee intake

Stick to your regular nightly rituals as much as possible. Don’t slip into bad habits even if you’re on holiday. Steer clear of the blue light emitted from electronic devices, like smartphones, laptops and tablets at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.

Blue light tells your brain to shut down production of melatonin, an important hormone that sends signals to tell your brain it’s time for sleep.

Regular exercise will help you enjoy quality rest, especially when you travel. Indulging in caffeinated drinks late in the day, on the other hand, will do the opposite.

Set yourself up for good sleep

The Sleep Council notes that while you can’t take your bed with you, if possible, try to take your pillow. “Not only is it familiar but it may provide the right comfort and support, allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.”

Also check the temperature, and if possible, adjust it. The right temperature for sleep is between 16-18 degrees.

Finally, be safe on the roads. If you are driving long stretches, be sure to take regular breaks – at least every two hours – and to pull off the road if you start to feel sleepy at any time.

Restonic SA wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.

For more news and for expert sleep advice, visit our Restonic Sleep Blog.

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