Getting good, quality sleep an important part of maintaining your overall health, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Whether you are dealing with disorders from sleep, environmental factors, or stress, there are plenty of times when a sleep aid, like ear plugs or a sleep mask, can help improve sleep—and in turn, your overall health.
In addition to increasing the likelihood of health problems like heart disease and diabetes, not getting proper sleep can affect you both physically and mentally. On the flip side, getting good, quality sleep can help you get sick less often, maintain a healthy weight, think more clearly, and make good decisions and avoid injuries, according to Health.gov.1
While there are several underlying factors that can affect an individual’s ability to get quality sleep, there are some things you can do to put yourself in a position to get the best sleep you can. Help get yourself on track with better sleep patterns by implementing the following tactics:
- Avoid screens. At least one hour before you turn out the lights, stay away from the blue light of cell phones, televisions, laptops, and tablets. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, which your body naturally produces more of at night. Exposing your eyes to blue light late will trick your body into thinking it’s still daytime, delaying melatonin production.
- Set a routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night—including on weekends. Setting a routine helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s biological clock and will help naturally prepare your body for when it’s time to go to sleep.
- Create a relaxing environment. Set a comfortable environment by dimming the lights, and don’t be afraid to use a white noise machine or play soft music if that’s necessary for you. Doing meditation or breathing exercises will also help relax your body in your sleep environment.
- Don’t eat or drink late. Having food or alcohol in your system late in the evening can affect natural sleep phases. If your body is working on digesting foods late in the evening, that means it’s working when it should be resting. This prevents you from entering the deep and REM stages of sleep, which are important to rejuvenating your body.
Getting good sleep at home—in a comfortable, familiar environment as part of your daily routine—is one thing, but trying to get good, quality sleep while traveling can take some additional thought. If we’re being honest, all kinds of routines will face occasional roadblocks—including our sleep routine. One common thing that may disrupt a sleep routine is when your daily living activities change, such as when you’re on vacation. While vacations like spring break are often full of outdoors, sunshine, play, fun, and travel, all of that can wear you out, including our children. Kids are often seen as resilient, but sleep is one area that shouldn’t be sacrificed within that resilience.
Sleep is not only important for overall health, but in specific for our kids’ growth and performance in school. Getting the right amount of sleep is imperative to a child’s focus, concentration, and academic performance in school. In addition to a higher risk of health problems, the Centers for Disease Control reports that not getting enough sleep can also increase the likelihood of attention and behavior problems, which can lead to poor academic performance. For children, the CDC recommends that children between 6-12 years old get between 9-12 hours of sleep per night and for kids between 13-18 to get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night. 2
When it comes to vacation, it can be more difficult to get the same quality sleep you experience in your own home. When you’re in an unfamiliar setting, it can be harder to control your sleep environment. Implementing the familiarity of a sleep routine even when on vacation can be important to combating the unfamiliar environment, especially for your children. Try to keep the same routine—avoiding blue light, creating a comforting environment, and not eating too late—when on vacation, but try adding these items in to help control the uncontrolled environment:
- Ear plugs: Bringing a sleep aid like ear plugs is smart for the moments you want to sleep but can’t control the noise of the environment you’re in. Whether you have an overnight flight or noisy hotel neighbors, keeping ear plugs on hand is key to helping you block out the unwanted noise.
- Sleep mask: Another helpful sleep aid that can help is a sleep mask. If you’re trying to sleep in a plane or car or other situation where you can’t be in a dark room, or if a mid-day nap takes place in a more public setting, this is the most effective way to create that dark environment.
- Familiar sleep essentials: If you have young kids who like to sleep with a stuffed animal or special blanket, or like a certain book read at night time, bring those along! Those familiar physical items can help them find comfort in the new environment.
When on vacation and out of a normal routine, it’s important to pay attention to your children’s activity levels and signs for sleepiness. Even if it seems like they’re falling asleep fine at night, the extra exertion of a vacation or time in the sun can drain energy even quicker. Make sure to stay flexible with plans and don’t over-plan so there is always room for alterations to make sure your sleep—and the rest of your health—isn’t neglected when you’re away from home. All of this will help you get the sleep you need to rest and reset yourself for the next day’s activities. Remember, after all, that a spring break trip is a time to vacation and have fun, but it’s also time to, as its name says, take a break!
- gov Get Enough Sleep https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/healthy-living/mental-health-and-relationships/get-enough-sleep
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Sleep and Health https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/sleep.htm