You’ve got your winter getaway marked on the calendar in red ink with big exclamation points next to it.
All you can think about is how badly you need a break. So why do we feel like we need another vacation when we get back?
If that scenario sounds too familiar, here’s why.
Your destination could be in another time zone. If you’re travelling to Australia or Europe, you could find yourself dealing with 6-11 hours worth of jetlag when you land.
This means that you’re most likely going to be tired right out of the arrival gates. You may land at your destination a bit groggy after a long flight across multiple time zones. You could be irritable, which can lead to bickering if you’re travelling with your family.
This often sets a bad tone for the first day of your vacation and you might find yourself playing catch-up for the rest of the trip.
Sleep Patterns are Disrupted
We have a lot of things competing against our desire to get a good night’s sleep on vacation. We can often blame it on having to trade our comfortable Perfect Sense mattress for whatever the hotel provides. But it’s more complicated than that.
Our brains are actually only about half asleep when we’re in a place we don’t recognize as home. The other half stands on guard for threats.
You’re also more likely to go to bed under the influence of a few cocktails. Alcohol hurts your body’s ability to enter the restorative REM sleep you truly need.
Routines are Non-Existent
It’s also hard to get enough sleep when you don’t have any sort of routine. At home, you have a bedtime and a wake-up time. But all routines get thrown out the window on vacation.
Rest can be at the top of your to-do list when you go away. But it’s quickly bumped down the list in favour of more fun activities. You stay up late at night, even though the alarm is still set to wake you up for an early excursion or scuba diving trip.
Your desire to rest is soon eclipsed by your desire to get your money’s worth out of this trip.
Naps Don’t Help as Much as You Think
When you’re planning all of this fun, you will often say something like, “It’s Ok. I’ll grab a nap in the afternoon.” While this can feel great and give you an energy boost for the evening, it’s not doing you quite as much good as you think.
Naps are great. But they can’t completely erase the debt of a sleep deficit. You still need to get the proper amount of sleep at night.
Trying to Squeeze in as Much Activity as Possible
You may also be putting too much pressure on yourself to enjoy every single second of your vacation. You’ve paid thousands of dollars for this trip and you only get to do it every couple of years. You don’t have time to rest.
However, overbooking your schedule can lead to too many early mornings and late nights. Keep in mind that it’s hard to enjoy an activity if you’re too tired to really appreciate it. It may be better to really enjoy a handful of activities instead of sort of enjoying a dozen of them.
Keep your early mornings and your late nights balanced and always leave gaps in the middle of the day for rest.
Let’s also not forget that about 70% of vacationers will experience travellers’ diarrhea.
If you suffer from this, it could be a very late night. Make sure everyone’s shots are up-to-date and take other precautions like getting a prescription for something like Dukoral. Also, be very careful of meat and food that has been sitting out for a while (i.e. buffets and street meat) and be sure to wash your hands frequently.
As you can see, best intentions aren’t good enough to get enough sleep on vacation. The deck is very much stacked against you. You’re away from your own bed and your old routines. At the same time, you could be losing sleep to late party nights and overloaded schedules. This is why you need to proactively make time for rest, or you will return home feeling worse than ever.
You should also consider giving yourself an extra day after returning home to let your body recover and get a truly good night of sleep.