Now that class is out of session for the year, it’s time to start nailing down travel plans and adjusting to a daily routine that doesn’t include school. This time of year offers opportunities for families to spend time together, take in the sights and establish a new routine. It also brings new challenges related to long-distance driving, travel across multiple time zones and the maintenance of healthy sleep schedules for vacationers of all ages.
For families looking to maximize fun and minimize risk during their vacation, sleep is a very important consideration. Besides keeping you safer on the road, proper sleep management allows parents and children to fully engage in, and enjoy, whatever activities are on the agenda while preventing conflict and ensuring that the whole vacation isn’t spent oversleeping, napping, or stumbling around in a fog of exhaustion.
AAA estimates that 80% of American families will take a road trip this summer, a figure that’s up 10% from the summer of 2016, despite slightly higher gas prices. More vacationers means more traffic, and more traffic means longer travel times. How do you get to your destination quickly and safely? Consider your sleep. It seems obvious to start your drive as early as possible but beware of starting so early that the driver is groggy and has difficulty paying attention to the road. Don’t just rely on caffeine; drivers can prepare for early morning departures by waking up earlier and earlier for a few days or a week before the trip. This will allow your body and brain to adjust to the earlier wake time, making you more alert and less prone to errors on the road while giving you some time to get out of town before late sleepers start clogging up the roads. If possible, switch drivers regularly, making sure the person behind the wheel is fresh and allowing for naps.
But what if you’re flying halfway around the world? While you can’t fully prepare for a European vacation by training yourself to wake up earlier, you can manage your family’s sleep in order to get the most sightseeing time out of your grand tour. Get the kids involved by setting their clocks to the time of your destination about a week before departing. No need to drastically alter bed or meal times but, if everyone’s up for it, you can also start nudging the family schedule toward that of your destination. The night before your flight, go to sleep early and avoid caffeine and alcohol until after you’ve spent your first night at your destination. While traveling, eat when you feel hungry, sleep on the plane if you feel tired, and drink as much water as you can; attending to these basic needs will ensure your body has everything it needs to cope with the stress of adjusting to a new hemisphere. Most importantly, transition to local time. Stay up until, or even slightly after, your standard sleep time. Get up at your normal time, avoid naps and stick to your normal schedule – you’ll feel adjusted within a couple days of your arrival.
Sun and Energy
You can use the sun to your benefit as well. When you wake up, get outside immediately and soak up the sunshine. Whether you’re leaving early for the beach or enjoying a leisurely breakfast on your terrace, exposure to sunlight will wake you up and help you adjust to your new routine. Starting early not only puts you in the front of the ticket line at museums and amusement parks, it ensures that you’ll pack the day full of activities and that you, and the kids, will be tired enough to sleep easily at the end of the day. A full day of fun is the best way to get everyone on the same schedule while getting the most bang for your vacation dollar to boot. Making sure everyone is well rested will also limit conflict, ensuring that your family is creating as many happy memories as possible.
Having Trouble Sleeping?
While these strategies can make your travel plans more enjoyable, memorable and productive, what should you do if you’re getting ready to tackle a big vacation but already have trouble getting enough sleep in your regular life? If you are having sleep issues, speaking with a sleep professional or taking a sleep health risk assessment is a smart next step to determine your risk of having a sleep condition.
If you are suspicious that you may have a sleep condition and would like assistance on your path to better sleep, please contact the FusionHealth Participant Resource Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-877-615-7257.