Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Sleep and Travel

Don't Let Vacation Ruin Your Sleep Habits

Travel can present challenges to a good night's sleep. Jet lag, strange hotel rooms and changes in daily schedule all conspire to disrupt sleeping patterns. This can lead to irritability and fatigue during the vacation itself and can also make re-entry into a work routine harder at vacation's end.

Even brief changes in lifestyle brought about by travel can create a man-made sleep disorder.

The RWJ Comprehensive Sleep Center offers the following tip to protect your sleep while traveling:

  • Whether you are at home or on vacation, you still need the same amount of sleep. Make sure not to short-change yourself on sleep to fit more into your days.
  • Avoid the temptation to stay up too late.
  • If you are traveling to a new time zone, your body's natural rhythm, called the "circadian rhythm" will be thrown off. Allow several days for it to re-adjust.
  • Try to select a flight that arrives in a new time zone in the early evening, and stay up until 10 p.m. local time.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol when you are on the plane and for your first day or two in a new time zone. Both will make it harder for your circadian rhythms to reset.
  • If you have a hard time sleeping a in a new environment, bring a familiar object, such as a pillow or blanket with you to help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
  • Earplugs and blindfolds can block out noise on plane flights and in hotel rooms.
  • Keep up with exercise routines on vacation. If there's no gym available, take a brisk walk every day. Exercise four to six hours before sleep results in a deeper and more restful sleep.
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