How to use your vacation time to set a new and healthy sleep schedule

BEING on vacation and away from the stress of daily life is a great time to get some much-needed rest and recharge the batteries. However, it is also the perfect time to put into place a new sleep hygiene routine that you can continue when back at home. Setting a healthier sleep schedule will not only improve the length of your sleep but also the quality, which in turn will give your overall mental and physical health a boost all year long.

Turn off all screens

With the rise in social media and the use of tablets and screens before bedtime many recent studies have looked into their effect on sleep, and the news isn't good.

Too much screen time before bedtime can affect the release of melatonin, the hormone which helps you to doze off, and can reduce not just the quantity but also the quality of your sleep. So avoid checking Facebook, emails, or a Netflix session for at least two hours before bedtime, and instead take time for your summer holiday reading to promote a more peaceful night's sleep.

Get some gentle exercise

Research has shown that one of the many benefits of regular exercise is a better night's sleep. If your hotel has a gym you could head there to complete your regular gym workout, or try swimming in the hotel pool or running on or by the beach. Even just walking around sightseeing will help get you active and help tire you out for an early night.

Use your hotel room

Use the comfort of your hotel room and its facilities to set the right ambience before you sleep. Pull down the blinds and close the curtains to darken the room, use dimmer switches to soften the lightening, and adjust the air conditioning to help set a cooler temperature.

Once at home put the same ideas into practice with a sleep mask or invest in blackout blinds, and use fans and open windows to keep the temperature cool if you don't have air con at home.

Take only short siestas

If you're relaxing on the beach or by the pool, it can be tempting to sleep a lot while on vacation. However try and keep your siesta time to a minimum, as short naps will refresh you but longer ones can interfere with that night's sleep. Experts suggest that a short 15- to 30-minute power nap between 1pm and 3pm is sufficient should you feel you need a little shut-eye.

Early to bed, early to rise

It's tempting to sleep in at the weekends, especially after a busy and often sleep-deprived week. But research shows that keeping to a regular sleep pattern, including heading to bed early and rising early, is actually better for health. Vacations can be a great time to get into this good habit though – there are not as many distractions to keep you up late at night, feeling more relaxed can help you drift off earlier, and sunny mornings and days of sightseeing make it easier and more motivating to set the alarm. — AFP Relaxnews