So many of us are traveling during these summer months. It’s wonderful to plan a relaxing (or exciting) vacation or visit friends and family. But all too often we don’t get the sound, restful sleep we need to feel our best when traveling. There is some pretty fascinating research that now explains what keeps us from the rest we need and how we can change that.
When I mention not sleeping well while traveling I’m sure most will think of jet lag immediately as the major cause and it certainly can be. Jet lag also called time zone change syndrome or desynchronosis, is a dysfunction of your body’s “biological clock.” Your biological or internal clock is also called your circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle. Things like how much sunshine you get, hormone levels and changes in your body temperature can all affect your circadian rhythm as well as crossing time zones.
Some simple ways to help your body adjust to the new time zone and get restful sleep are:
Set your watch to the new time zone so you automatically align yourself with the local time zone.
Stay hydrated – it keeps everything working properly!
Try to get sunlight as soon as possible when reaching your destination.
Try to stay up until your normal bedtime in the new time zone.
Keeping the room dark, cool and using something to create white noise can also help.
Walking barefoot on grass or sand or using a grounding device can also alleviate some of the symptoms and realign your circadian rhythm.
Something I found fascinating was that jet lag is actually worse when you travel east than when going west! Apparently your internal clock naturally tends to run slightly longer than 24 hours. Each morning, your body compensates for this slight discrepancy by contracting your internal clock to synchronize with the 24-hour sun cycle. When you travel west, you gain several hours, so your day is extended and your body gets the extra time it naturally wants. But when you travel east, your day is shortened making it more difficult to adjust, because your body has to cut its natural cycle even further.
The other interesting thing I learned was that especially the first night sleeping in a new or unfamiliar place, half your brain gets less rest than the other half because your left hemisphere stands guard over your safety, while the rest of your body and brain rest!
While our brains just seem to do this automatically, a few things might help a bit, such as:
Bringing your own pillow so there is something familiar.
White noise might help here as well or even listening to a CD of soothing sounds.
Keep in mind the basics for good sleep apply whether you are snug in your own bed or traveling – avoid electronics just before bed, don’t exercise too late in the day, limit alcohol, caffeine and sugar and don’t eat too late.
How do you get sound sleep when traveling?
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