An exploration of sleep and insomnia, with a single destination in mind:
a good night's sleep.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Take a Sleep Vacation

By Bill Adler

Take a sleep vacation.

I'm not suggesting that you take a vacation to an airport hotel and cocoon yourself in the nearly perfect sound proofness that airport hotels offer -- though that's not a bad idea. I'm not suggesting that you stay in bed at home, emerging only to pop an Ambien every 8 hours -- though that is a very bad idea.

What I am suggesting is that you take a trip somewhere and plan no activities at all. I'm suggesting that you travel someplace that has few distractions and spend as much time as your body wants doing one thing...sleeping.

Belize is a great destination for a sleep vacation. 
There are two reasons to take a sleep vacation. First, you'll get lots of sleep. You'll be surprised how much you sleep you're gifted when you have little else to do. When you have no morning obligations, including showing up before the hotel's breakfast stops at 10 AM, you might just sleep past 10 AM. When you aren't distracted at night by what you have to do tomorrow morning, you can glide more effortlessly into sleep.

When you don't feel like you have to see a particular museum, show or tourist attraction, you can sleep in the middle of the day. When there are no great restaurants around, those three or four hours of getting ready, traveling, eating and chatting won't be stolen from you, and they can be used for sleeping.

When you take a sleep vacation, you can sleep whenever you want and for as long as you want. That should be your mission, nothing else.

The second benefit of taking a sleep vacation is that your body will be retrained in how to sleep. If you're reading this article, it's probably because you don't sleep well. One factor that causes sleeplessness and insomnia is that it's been a long time since you've slept like babies. You're out of practice. Sleeping whenever you can helps you regain those lost sleeping skills.

As for the nitty-gritty, exactly what should you do to make a sleep vacation work?

First, take the trip alone if you can. You'll have far fewer must-do kind activities and get more sleep if you're alone. If your travel partner wants to stay up late to get up early --"it's okay, you can sleep late and we'll meet up later"-- that's going to interfere with your getting to know sleep all over again.

If you must travel with somebody, then sleep in separate rooms. Just as nobody emerged from a transAtlantic airplane flight looking more refreshed than they were before they got on the plane, nobody who sleeps with somebody else in their room gets a better sleep than if they're alone.

Second, don't go to a city. London, San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Brussels -- if it's a city, it's your sleep's demise. Not because cities are noisier than more remote places (though they are), but because there's a lot to do in a city. You will want to see the sights, when you could be sleeping instead.

Third, don't take a sleep vacation during holiday season. Wherever you go, it will be busier and probably noisier during peak holiday times.

What kind of place should you go to? Your destination should be a place where the primary activity involves your feet, because walking will get you tired and being tired gets you sleepy. A location surrounded by nature is best.

Belize is one destination that's well suited for sleep vacations. (Though beware of ecolodges that believe that air conditioning detracts from the experience. It does detract from being in the rain forest, but cool temperatures are best for sleep.)

The White Mountains in New Hampshire have plenty of quiet, hiking trails and cool air, all conducive for sleep.

Think about beach destinations in winter. Few people go to the beach in the winter, making it quiet. Winter also has the advantage of being darker for longer; early setting and late rising suns are best for sleep.

You might want to take a sleep vacation once a year to rejuvenate and to retrain yourself how to sleep.

Enjoy planning your sleep vacation, and enjoy the sleep.

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