Obici Hosptial’s Sleep Disorders Center offers tips for restful summer vacations

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Whether your summer travels take you to different countries and time zones, or to a nearby cottage on the beach, you don’t want your precious days to feel the brunt of sleepless nights. And jet lag isn’t the only sleep disrupter.

&uot;Many people don’t realize how much their daily activities can affect their nightly sleep, especially when they’re on vacation,&uot; says Richard L. Gelula, executive director of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

&uot;For example, we tend to eat more and consume more alcohol when we’re on vacation.

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And then there are those snacks, many loaded with chocolate – and caffeine.&uot;

In addition to the chocolate, a heavy, rich meal close to bedtime, or alcohol, may mean heartburn and a night without sufficient, restful sleep, adds Dr. Steve Coleman, a neurologist and medical director of Obici Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center.

Many over the counter (OTC) medications may have side effects that can put a crimp in summer fun, too. Certain antihistamines often taken for allergies or cold symptoms have ingredients that can cause sleeplessness at night and sleepiness during the day.

&uot;It is important to read the labels and familiarize yourself with certain ingredients,&uot; says Coleman.

&uot;Sometimes, simply taking a medication in the morning instead of at night can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep or a day you wish you were asleep.&uot;

There are other things you can do to help ensure you sleep well while you’re away from home.

Coleman and Leah Pixley, clinical manager of the Sleep Center, offer the following tips:

Minimizing jet lag:

* Anticipate time zone changes in advance. If you’re traveling east, get up and go to bed earlier beginning a few days prior to your trip, and a few hours later if you’re heading west.

* Arranging for a late afternoon or early evening arrival will give your body time to adjust to the time change.

* Live by local time.

Try to remain awake until at least 10 p.m. local time, to help you get a full night’s sleep.

* Enjoy the sunlight.

Daylight helps regulate the biological clock by keeping you awake; conversely, darkness can induce sleep and worsen jet lag.

General travel tips:

* Avoid driving too early in the morning or late at night, when you are normally asleep.

* Take naps. Short naps (15-45 minutes) can be refreshing, help you acclimate to a new time zone and stay alert on long drives.

Avoid naps close to bedtime.

* Caffeine care. A caffeinated beverage such as coffee or an energy drink can promote short-term alertness and may be good for long drives, however, alcohol and foods and beverages with caffeine should be avoided three to four hours before bedtime.

* If you’re checking into a hotel or motel, check out the room before you check in.

Make sure it is quiet, away from noisy areas such as the elevator or ice machine.

Try to avoid facing a busy road or highway.

Make sure the mattress is comfortable and if you have allergies, ask for pillows without feathers.

* Keep your bedtime routine.

Going to sleep and awakening at your regular times helps avoid sleep disruptions. Relaxing in a warm bath or hot tub can help promote sleep.

* Bring familiar items with you such as a pillow, alarm clock and other bedroom items. Earplugs and eye masks can help keep out noise and unwanted light.

* Don’t sunburn. Sunburn is a major cause of sleep disruption for adults and children.

Traveling with children presents its own special challenges regarding sleep.

Keeping your child’s usual napping and bedtime routine and bringing along comfort toys and belongings such as a favorite blanket or pillow, can help with his/her sleep away from home.

Obici’s Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center is a member of the National Sleep Foundation, working with NSF as a Community Sleep Awareness Partner. For more information, call 934-4450 or visit The Center is fully accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.