Vacation and sleep seem to be a perfect pair. Except when noisy hotels and time zone changes get in the way of rest and relaxation. It is possible to sleep well when traveling. Just share these sleep travel tips and tricks with your clients to keep them healthy and rested all summer long.

Sleep Travel Tip #1 – Packing for Sleep

Helping the peripheral nervous system senses adapt to new sleeping spaces allows the body to rest within a new environment. Sneak these items into a suitcase for successful soothing of all five senses.

  • Ear plugs
  • Sound machine (or a download on smartphone)
  • Blue light blocking glasses
  • Sleep mask
  • Lavender or another relaxing scent
  • Favorite pajamas
  • A pillowcase from home (or pillow!)
  • Familiar toothpaste (yes, really!)

Keeping the bedtime routine familiar helps the body slip into a parasympathetic state for sleep when away from home.

Sleep Travel Tip #2 – Realistic Expectations

Sleep disruption is expected when away from home. The human brain is designed to be more alert the first night sleeping in a new place. Knowing this can help a person be more accepting about the first rocky night of sleep in a new place. The body’s need for rest, especially when on a different routine makes it important not to over-schedule stimulating activities when on vacation. Meltdowns don’t just happen to toddlers.

A nap can help ease fatigue from travel and a restless night. After lunchtime, between 1 PM and 3 PM is the ideal window for a 20-30 minute nap for adults. Anything more and it will likely push bedtime later, creating a cycle. It can be hard to wake up from a short nap when overtired, so suggest having a favorite snack ready or an upbeat song to rouse the body out of slumber.

Being aware of the dis-regulation and re-calculations happening internally and cultivating grace around the moodiness that results from lack of sleep can prevent explosive arguments and painful feelings in relationships (and in our own minds).

Sleep Travel Tip #3 – Consistency

Having a regular bedtime routine and schedule benefits all the body systems. Timing matters, there are three trillion clocks (one in every cell) that function best when synchronized.

It is tempting to sleep in when on vacation (and stay up late) and this might be fine, especially if someone needs to catch up on sleep from a stressful work season. Encourage folks to keep a regular routine (even on vacation). You might even suggest a sleep reset. When people have time off from work and early morning alarms, it’s a perfect time for this activity. In short, it’s letting a person sleep as much as they want for a week or two to find out their ideal sleep volume, but is best executed using a consistent bedtime and rising time.

Sleep Tip #4 – Changing Time Zones and Melatonin

Remind people that time zone changes take time to recover from. Experts say, one day for each hour of time change. The human body’s circadian rhythm is influenced by exposure to light. Melatonin, the sleep hormone is released on a different schedule in each time zone.

Dr. Michael Brues, a sleep doctor says that traveling East requires more recovery time than traveling west. It’s equivalent to the “spring forward” time change, forcing the body to wake up earlier than usual. Keeping all of this in mind helps with compassion around the groggy grumpy feelings that intermingle with the excitement and joy of travel.

Downtime is valuable and so is getting away on vacation. For adventures away from home to be truly restorative, it’s important to honor the principles of human physiology, so people can get the rest they need. After all, that’s what vacation is designed for, right?

Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.