The Sleep Thief: How to Catch Some Zzz’s on Vacation

With summer here and in full swing, we start preparing for our getaways, but there’s one more thing we need to consider: a sleep plan for travel. Often, our sleep gets disrupted in many ways when we are away from our own beds. But before you leave on that much needed dream vacation, let’s prepare by reviewing helpful sleep strategies. Here are some of the biggest sleep theives and how you can prevent them from stealing your precious shut-eye.

Dry as dust

Sleep thief: Dry air in airplanes and hotel rooms can lead to headaches, dry skin and dehydration. An arid atmosphere also creates conditions for cold and flu germs to spread easily. All of these can cause us to lose sleep.

Arrest the thief: Tuck a small spray bottle into your carry case and fill with water to spritz on your face throughout the flight. Another good thing to back is saline nasal spray. This helps to keep your nasal passages moist. Once you get through security buy a bottle of water to carry on the plane or bring an empty water bottle from home and fill it up on the other side of TSA. When you are on the plane, and the beverage cart comes around order an herbal tea, avoid carbonated and/or caffeinated drinks. Once you’re in the hotel room, turn off the air conditioning and open a window if possible, to let in fresh air. You can leave cups of water around the room to rehydrate the air.

Off balance

Sleep thief: Motion sickness can happen when you are riding in a car, on a plane or on a ship. If the weather causes turbulence, it can be aggravated. We get motion sickness when we lose our equilibrium, or balance. A signal goes from our inner ear to our brain that something is out of whack, and the sensory input from our eyes doesn’t match up. We can feel dizzy and nauseous making it difficult to sleep.

Arrest the thief: Make sure you get plenty of sleep before you embark on your journey. When you are well rested you usually can handle turbulence better. If you’re driving, make sure to stop every few hours to get out and walk around. Getting grounded by stretching your legs and letting your feet feel the earth. On a plane, or ship, get up and walk around, and do leg stretches to get your blood circulating. Chew on candied ginger to help alleviate nausea.

Jet lag

Sleep thief: We feel jet lag when we travel across time zones. Out internal biorhythms get out of sync with the time at our new destination. ANd when we travel from west to east, the problems are worse because it is more difficult to advance our sleep time than to delay it.

Arrest the thief: Before you travel, try to gradually adjust your sleep patterns to the time at your destination. On the plane, set your water to you new time zone. Keep this new time in mind when planning your nap strategy onboard. After you arrive, get some exercise. Daylight can help reset your internal clock, so take an early morning walk when you wake up in your new local and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar which are stimulants which can intensify the jet lag.

It ain’t home

Sleep thief: Unfamiliar surroundings can make us feel uncomfortable, which makes it difficult to relax and get to sleep.

Arrest the thief: Ask for a quiet hotel room away from the elevator and ice machine. Make sure the drapes are shut all the way so the room is dark. Pack a sleeping mask with you if you like the dark in case there are no blackout drapes. Bring some personal items from home to make the environment more comfortable. It’s nice to have your own alarm clock with you, a soft blanket, and most important, your pillow.

Despite all these sleep thieves, many people report that they sleep better when they are away from home. Most likely it is because they are sleeping on a better mattress. Many hotels pride themselves on providing high-quality new mattresses. If you find yourself sleeping better when you are away from home, check your mattress when you get home. Chances are it’s more than five to seven years old and it’s time to get a new one.

Happy travels and sweet dreams!

Article Source: Sleep Savvy Magazine, May/June 2015

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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