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How to get better sleep on vacation

It’s getting hot in here, and with the holiday weekend a lot of people are taking some well-deserved time off. Getting away from it all is great for your health and your productivity, but it’s not so easy to slip into relaxation mode. It’s important to get quality sleep so you can come back refreshed – but also so you can enjoy your vacation! Between crazy schedules and a strange bed, how do you do it? Here are some tips to be well-rested while you’re traveling.

Make friends with your room

You’d think that after a day sightseeing or swimming, away from the cares of your everyday life, your body would be ready to rest. But it’s that unfamiliar location that’s keeping you up at night, even if you don’t realize it. There's a name for this: First Night Effect. Scientists found that people sleeping in new locations are actually half awake. It’s a throwback from when we had to be on high alert in case of danger, and now every sound could trigger your brain to consider it a threat. The next night should be better. To help with the transition, spend some time in your room before you settle in for the night. Getting familiar with the feel of a new place can help your brain settle down.

Don’t let the jet get you down

Even a small shift in time zone can throw off your schedule. Make plans to adjust for the difference. Travel experts suggest adjusting your internal clock before you travel by gradually moving your sleeping and eating times to match your destination. This may be impossible if you’re going somewhere more than a few hours off, so instead try for an overnight flight and get some sleep on the plane. Then, get outside when you land so your body can reset its clock to the local time. Drink water instead of alcohol or caffeine – hydration will keep you healthier in the long run.

Make a list, check it twice

It’s easy to forget things when you’re in a packing frenzy. When you’re creating your packing list, make sure to include items to help you sleep. Some ideas:

  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs or headphones
  • Allergy medicine
  • Your favorite pillow
  • Relaxing scent

Some of these may not be on your radar, but they all make sense. Pollen and other allergens will be different in another area, so even if it’s not allergy season where you are now, it could be where you’re going. Clogged sinuses ruin sleep! Pillows can be very important, since they align your head and neck a certain way that you’re used to when you’re sleeping. You may not be able to bring your adjustable bed, but you can use pillows to help put yourself into the sleeping position you're used to. So don’t be shy if you have a favorite that you want to take along! Anything that makes you comfortable, like a room spray you use at home, helps your bod relax and get into sleep mode.

Your hotel probably won't have an adjustable bed, so prop up your head and knees with pillows if you are used to sleeping with your head or legs raised to reduce snoring or improve blood flow.

Minimize your indulgences

Vacation is time to go wild, right? Well, there’s a time for that, but if you want to be well rested you need to treat your body right. That means drinking lots of water, especially if you’re out in the sun, and limiting your alcohol and food intake. Alcohol actually blocks your ability to fall into a deep sleep, even if it makes you feel sleepy at the time. And no one wants to be up all night with indigestion.

Also, we don't want to be THAT person, but get a little exercise. You can lay off your normal routine, but try to work in some activity to your day. This can be a 30-minute walk along the beach, a few laps in the pool, or strolling through the streets to get to and from a new restaurant. Too hot to go out? You can even take some time in your hotel room.

Kids need sleep too

Kids can be even more sensitive than adults to a change of scenery – you’ve probably noticed that already! Check ahead to find out as much as you can about where your kids will be sleeping. If they have any anxieties, make sure you can address them. It’s great if you can prepare them ahead of time by showing them where you’re going.

Just like you with your pillow, your child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal can give them a familiar anchor in an uncertain place. Keep the routine familiar, as well, by trying to go to bed on time and doing the same things you’d do at home (bed time stories, bath, etc.). This may mean skipping a fancy dinner later in the day, but it will be worth it when everyone is bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning.

One key piece of equipment may be a white noise machine or app. If your kids don’t use one at home, start introducing it before your trip. This will help block out unfamiliar noises while you’re away, if you don't have the benefit of peaceful ocean waves at night. Speaking of packing, don’t forget all the accessories you need to keep everyone happy. Make sure there are enough toys and treats for the duration.

These tips work for babies as well as kids a little older, so you can still go on trips when they’re young.

Above all, relax! Take time to unwind before bed, enjoying your vacation location - you deserve it.