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Sleep Tips

Sleep Tips For Holiday Travel

With the holiday season in full swing, it’s time to start planning. What will you eat? What gifts will you buy? Where will you go? And while all these questions are important for the perfect holiday, perhaps the most important question with regards to filling your holiday with cheer, is how well will you sleep?

It’s easy to deprioritize sleep over the holidays. After all, you’re too busy to worry about sleep and a short period of sleep deprivation shouldn’t make a difference, right? Wrong. Not getting adequate rest can quickly translate into fatigue and poor mood, putting a damper on your holiday spirit. Let’s look at some tips to sleep better when you’re traveling or away from home.

1. Take your routine with you. Nighttime routines are an important part of sleep hygiene . No matter how far you travel, remember that many parts of your nighttime routine are portable. Typical routines often include habits that you can easily perform anywhere, such as brushing your teeth, taking a shower, reading, etc. Keep your nighttime routine the same when you travel. Studies show that routines help everyone sleep – both kids and adults alike.

2. Adjust your internal body clock. We all have a 24-hour internal body clock that makes us feel awake during the day and sleepy at night. It’s called our circadian rhythm. When we fly across multiple time zones our bodies continue to function based on the time back home instead of the time at the destination, and this mismatch creates jet lag. But jet lag can be improved simply by timing your exposure to light. This is because our brains adjust our circadian rhythm based on light exposure.

If you travel west, it is best to stay awake until the typical bedtime in your new time zone, coupled with exposure to bright lights at night.  Avoid too much bright light upon awakening if possible.

If travelling east, try to limit light exposure at night, go to sleep as early as you feel tired, and get plenty of light exposure when you wake up. The caveat is this: if you are travelling across more than three time zones, and you’re trying to wake up at the same time as you do back home, you may want to delay excessive light exposure until later in the morning.

3. Steer clear of sleep disrupters. It’s easy to go a bit overboard with the eggnog over the holidays. But excessive alcohol can actually worsen sleep quality. If you do plan on having the occasional drink, try to drink as early in the evening as possible so that your blood alcohol level is close to zero before going to sleep.

4. Still tired? There’s a nap for that. With the combination of packed schedules and jet lag, sometimes it’s hard to get a full night’s sleep. It’s not a bad idea to catch up on missed sleep with a short daytime nap. The best napping duration is 20-30 minutes on the short end, or 90 minutes on the long end. Anything in between and you may find yourself feeling even more groggy when you wake up. The best time to nap is during the afternoon lull that occurs around 12-2 p.m. Remember, this will be 12-2 p.m. in your home’s time zone, not your destination, until you’ve had time to adjust your body clock.

The holidays can be packed with plenty of fun and cheer; but, nothing takes the fun away faster than fatigue and irritability from sleep deprivation. Keeping you and your family on a good sleep schedule may make all the difference between ending up on the naughty or nice list. Happy holidays!

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