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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Porritt

Why you can't sleep on holiday, and what to do about it.

Tips for getting a good nights sleep on your holidays.

We’ve all been there – you were up at three this morning, navigated a busy airport, got through a long flight and then found yourself in a beautiful resort with a great big fluffy bed – just what you need after a long day!

But for some strange reason, sleep isn’t as easy to come by as you were hoping, and the first few mornings you might wake up as tired as you were at home. What on earth is going on?

Well, apart from the usual problem of jet lag, part of this may actually be a phenomenon called the First Night Effect (FNE), where our bodies are, in fact attempting to keep us safe. The effect is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, as well as shorter overall time sleeping, and less time spent in REM sleep (the stage in which dreams occur).

For those of you who like the science, studies have shown that people who are sleeping in a new place exhibit increased activity in the left hemisphere of the brain; an area that is expected to be more dormant when a person winds down for bed. Rather than allowing the body to sleep, this part of the brain remains alert and vigilant for signs of danger. This response may be triggered as a protection mechanism since increased vigilance allows a person to wake up faster in response to unexpected noise. (Hence why the neighbours always seem to be noisy in your hotel!)

This effect can lead to all the general problems associated with insomnia; tiredness and irritability, which isn’t exactly conducive when you’re busy trying to relax and make memories with the family! Here I’m going to look at some tips to help you sleep whilst on holiday.

• Before you go try and make sure you have enough time to prepare for your holiday. If you start off right, you’ll be more relaxed before, during and after your journey! Get a good night's sleep before you go, and maybe resist the temptation to drink too much alcohol before and during the journey!

• Keep to your own routine as much as possible. Yes, we’ve all been there on holiday – late dinners, drinking more alcohol than usual, different bed time and wake up times… But they’re not doing you any favours. Studies show that keeping to our normal circadian rhythms is critical to maintaining health. (Fun fact – did you know that women who have a consistent waking time tend to have a lower percentage body fat?) Also, if you normally do some exercise during your day – carry on! Holidays are the perfect time – walking, swimming, or yoga could perhaps take the place of your normal gym time.

• Carrying on from the last point, avoid eating too late – when the body must put resources into digestion, the body hasn’t got time to do the body repair and refresh that takes place during sleep. Also avoid the “night cap” as a way to help you sleep. Alcohol is a sedative, so while you may be able to drop off to sleep more quickly, but as alcohol suppresses REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which means the quality of the sleep isn’t as good, and you won’t feel as refreshed.

• Think about doing something calming before you try and sleep. Turn off devices an hour before you sleep, take a warm shower (a warm shower will help you drop off to sleep more quickly), read that book you picked up at the airport…You want to do something relaxing, but not too stimulating, so your brain isn’t thinking about something when you want to sleep.

• Take a sleep travel kit – this could consist of ear plugs, your own pillow, a pair of blue light-blocking glasses, as well as a sleep mask to block out lig

ht and perhaps a pillow spray to harness the powers of aromatherapy to help you sleep. The Sensory Retreats Self Heating eye masks are perfect for this, as they use subtle aromas of either Lavender, chamomile, Rose or Jasmine to help you drift off to a relaxing sleep, and they also block light very effectively. I also have some gorgeous pillowsprays which are great to get your mind relaxed and ready for sleep.

• Once in bed make sure you try and take some slow deep breaths, you may want to use a guided sleep meditation (easily found on YouTube, Spotify or an app like Calm. If you can’t sleep, get up for a little while until you feel sleepy, but do stay off your phone!

I hope you find something here to help you get some better sleep while you’re on holiday!

¡Buen Viaje!

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