Ever had a night that you just can’t fall asleep? You lay in bed, tossing and turning, while your thoughts race and the clock moves agonizingly slow? Now imagine having 4+ of those in a row while on vacation.
Whether at home or abroad, I usually lay awake until the wee hours of the morning, where I’ll inevitably fall asleep just before my alarm goes off. While it’s frustrating at home, it is completely anxiety inducing when on vacation – I have fun things planned and I don’t want to be dragging ass all day. I’m not a sleep in type of person, so Jess and I usually aim to get out the door by 8-9 a.m. Throw in a new time zone and my brain nearly explodes.
The first time Jess and I traveled together, I found myself unable to sleep. I had brought two sleeping pills with me to Germany, and after a bad first night of sleep I decided I would take one the second night to help adjust to the time zone. My sleep on the trip went downhill from there. On many a night Jess would wake up to find me reading in the bathroom or laying in my bed with my eyes wide open. By the time we hit Salzburg, I felt like the walking dead. We eventually found a pharmacy where I purchased an over the counter (OTC) sleep aid – just in time to enjoy a few nights of sleep before heading back to the states and getting crushed by jet lag.
Although my sleep problems persist, I’ve found that following guidelines can help:
- Bring a trusted sleep aid. Whether prescription or OTC, synthetic or all natural, make sure you bring enough for each night of the trip. (I prefer Ambien, Jess likes Rescue Sleep!) Just remember, medication isn’t for everyone – speak with your doctor before taking sleep aids for the first time and don’t take more than the recommended dosage.
- Set your sleep pattern. Slowly getting yourself into a sleep-wake routine that mirrors your travel schedule can help you avoid a bad sleep situation. If I’m heading to Europe for a week or more, I try to get to bed and wake up a bit earlier in the weeks preceding my trip.
- Get moving! Exercise is known to improve sleep, but make sure to do it at least five hours before hitting the hay – too close to bedtime and you’ll risk the opposite effect.
- Drink a cup of tea – herbal, not caffeinated. Warm tea can help you feel relaxed and aid sleep. Just make sure to avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime. This means no coffee, tea, or chocolate. :(
- Don’t lie awake in bed. I always make the mistake of lying in bed for hours, even if I’m nowhere near ready to sleep. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and only go back if you feel you are ready to sleep.
- Find ways to relax. I like to take a warm shower before bed and use a lavender lotion to relax. Create a relaxing ritual can get you ready to hit the sack. Reading, listening to quiet music, and breathing exercises have all been proven to help you relax and fall asleep easier.
- Limit naps. Getting in a little snooze during the day always makes it harder for me to fall asleep at night, but sometimes a nap is necessary – especially if I’m flying to a time zone that’s more than three hours difference from where I live. It’s best to avoid a nap, but if you can’t, try to limit your nap to no more than 30 minutes and don’t nap after 3 p.m.
- Cover all clocks. There’s nothing like the glare of my clock to set my teeth on edge and create a sleep deficit. Set your alarm if you need to get up, but remove anything with a clock from view – including your cell phone, iPad, or laptop.
Have any tried and true sleep remedies? Please share!