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Sleep… the all-important elixir of life! Though the average adult typically needs eight hours of sleep each night studies show that our hectic North American lifestyle is actually contributing to a deficit in most people’s sleep time. In any given year at least one-third of the adult US population reports a sleep disturbance.
Sleep is a vital function, not a luxury!
Many people are shortening the amount of time they allot for their sleep in order to accommodate all the other things that need to be fit into their busy lives, even at the risk of their health. I, personally, don’t do well to short change myself of adequate sleep and I do all that I can to protect my regular sleep schedule for that all-important and loved replenishment.
Humans need two types of sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep (non-REM sleep) and Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM sleep). Our bodies and brain slow down during NREM sleep, the time of our deepest physical rejuvenation. REM sleep, on the other hand, is the time with fast eye movements and very active brainwave patterns and is accompanied by dreaming. This is the time when we are most rejuvenated mentally and physiologically. Most of our deep NREM sleep occurs in the first third of our sleep period, while REM periods are longer and occur on a more regular basis in the second half of our sleep period, though this pattern changes over the course of the night. Without this quality sleep, a sleep debt grows and we begin to suffer the consequences.
Sleep for travellers can be challenging, many averaging only six hours of sleep a night (rather than the necessary eight) and therefore accumulate a nightly sleep debt of two hours, which only adds up with each night of sleep loss. Thankfully, two consecutive nights of sleeping eight hours each can recover this deprivation.
On top of less sleep, changing time zones, disrupting the internal body clock, interruption to our familiar food and exercise patterns, as well as irregular exposure to light can all result in disrupted or reduced sleep and even sleep debt.
I recall eastward bound travel I’ve made and admit I definitely found it harder than flying west! Why? Though we live on a 24-hour day, the internal body clock prefers to run longer. When flying west, our day is 'extended' and going in the natural direction of our internal clock, whereas, when flying east, we lose time and ‘shrink’ our day in opposition to our internal clock's natural tendency.
When travelling to a different time zone, our internal (circadian) clock needs time to adjust. Our body's internal systems all adjust at different rates, the sleep and wake cycle at one rate, while our temperature rhythm changes at a different pace. This is what creates jet lag. Due to time zone changes, we may be wide awake on “home time”, while the place we visit is sound asleep, and visa versa. I will never forget looking over at Richard and finding him sound asleep beside me as we toured around Paris… why?... it was night time back at home!
18 tips to promote relaxation and sleeping like a baby…even away from home!
□ Take along familiar home items that might encourage you to feel “home away from home,” such as a family photo, candles, relaxing aroma therapy bath products, etc.
□ Supplement your reduced sleep with a short nap(s) because any sleep is better than no sleep.
□ Ask for a room away from noisy area, such as elevators, ventilation systems, stairwells and lounges.
□ If travelling for only a few days, it may be most beneficial to keep your internal body clock on your own 'home time'. This includes sleeping times as well as meal times, too, because even our stomachs have to adjust during travel.
□ Be smart around the use of stimulants, such as coffee, to keep you awake. Time your consumption of them to when you need a lift, but not too close to when you need to unwind. Though many people lean towards having a few drinks to “wind down,” alcohol consumed within 3-4 hours of bedtime can actually disrupt sleep quality and quantity. Have that alcoholic drink earlier than later and, towards bedtime drink a camomile tea or steamed milk for the relaxing, sleepy effect these bring on.
□ Avoid eating a big meal before you want to sleep or your body will get busy to digest, rather than slow down to replenish! If you really must eat something, eat sparingly and smartly, foods that will not produce stimulating effects.
□ Be smart with your evening activities, plan gentle things that will induce sleep (so avoid upsetting evening news, etc.).
□ Though exercise close to bedtime is thought to tire us out, in fact, it can serve to stimulate us awake instead. A gentle, quiet, restful session of relaxation stretches or yoga poses, however, will likely do the job of mellowing the body and mind for sleep.
□ If sleep is eluding you and you’re tempted to take a pharmaceutical in order to sleep, make sure you know the side effects of any medication and have talked to your family doctor first. If you insist on taking something, a natural remedy to promote drowsiness is Valerian, or the more benign anti-nausea travel pill called Gravol, now more widely dispensed in hospitals instead of sleeping pills.
□ Bring along an aroma therapy pillow spray infused with lavender or mint… the scents will play their wonderful effect on your mood and lull you into relaxation.
□ Draw yourself a bath infused with essence of lavender and languish in it as a good sleep-induction.
□ Set your environment to maximize getting to sleep… close the draperies, turn the temperature down to cool rather than warm, place the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the hotel doorknob, and have the hotel hold all phone calls.
□ This might sound funny, but try wearing cozy, soft, loose-fitting cotton socks to bed for a snugly effect…I sleep better this way!
□ Since the lighting conditions might be different in your travel location than at home, consider using an eye mask.
□ Travel with a portable CD player and a Relaxation meditation or calming music to listen to in order to wind down and tuck in! Shop around for the perfect travel “sleep enticing” music or meditation, such as our Inner Fitness® “Relaxation” CD, for a great night’s sleep!
□ Earplugs are a blessing to mask unfamiliar hotel sounds and snoring!
□ If a busy mind keeps you awake, speeding along at 100mph making it so that your body can’t go to sleep, interrupt it as though you are boss and say, “No, this is not the time to sort things out, this is my time to sleep to rest and replenish! I’ll work with you tomorrow to sort these things out after I am rested and able to think clearly.” Stand your ground, it might take a little practice!
□ If you find yourself tossing and turning for more than 20 or 30 minutes, you’re better to get up and do something that promotes rest. Listen to your relaxation CD, watch TV or read until you feel drowsy, get back into bed and try again.
There you have it… a long list of relaxing sleep-care ideas to experiment with to sleep like a baby while you’re traveling at Christmas!
Warmly, Carolyn Clarke
Inner Fitness® Programs
Phone (604) 885-8885
Carolyn J. Clarke – her experience as a certified Natural Health Consultant, Healing Touch Practitioner, as well as her self-hypnosis, journal work and Inner Fitness® Breathwork Therapy serve in working with individuals, couples and corporate groups. With husband, Richard Clarke, they’ve guided thousands through their private counselling practice and Inner Fitness® seminars in life and relationships skills, human relations training and personal development. They are the creators of the Inner Fitness® series of guided meditation CDs.
Labels: building brain cells, changing time zones, guided meditation, inducing sleep, internal body clock, jet lag, relax, relaxation, REM sleep, sleep, sleep for travellers, sleep like a baby