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Could a Vacation Make You Tired?

Survey respondents said they felt more tired when they returned home from their vacations than they did before they left. The planning process, later bedtimes and unfamiliar or uncomfortable accommodations were some of the reasons people were tired when they came home, the survey said.

The survey demonstrated that 54 percent of respondents reported returning home tired from vacation, including 19 percent who described themselves as "very tired" or even "exhausted."

"One would expect that vacation would dramatically reduce the number of people reporting to be tired but instead there was an increase," said Dr. Roger Cadieux, a clinical professor of psychiatry. "Clearly, vacations are fraught with obstacles to sleep and relaxation, and the problems often begin before you leave home."

The survey of 1,000 Americans, all of whom traveled in the last year, indicates that sleep loss often begins before the vacation starts, according to the findings. Fifty-six percent packed the night before or on the day of the trip and 32 percent went to bed at least two hours later than normal due to this lack of advanced preparation, the study reported.

To get an early start on the morning of the trip, 54 percent reported waking up earlier than usual; of those who were employed at the time of their vacation, 36 percent reported working harder or staying at the office later than usual prior to the trip and 26 percent said they lost sleep because of the increased job pressure, the study said.

"Americans easily add to their sleep deficit before the start of their vacation," said Cadieux. "As a result, they make it much more difficult to recharge their depleted batteries in the course oftheir vacation."

During their vacation, many respondents said normal sleep habits were disrupted; most people tend to stay up later and wake up earlier, according to the survey. Approximately 22 percent of individuals vacationing for 10 to 14 days went to bed later than normal almost every night, the study noted.

"A significant number of vacationers do not make sleep a priority on their trips," said Cadieux; limiting your time in bed is one of the most common ways to increase your degree of sleep deprivation, he added.

Ten percent of respondents also reported having trouble getting a full night of sleep once they were settled in bed. The most common reasons for sleep problems included unfamiliar or noisy surroundings; uncomfortable accommodations; and medical conditions, including indigestion and chronic sleep problems associated with work, financial, or family problems, the study found. In addition, women were approximately two times more likely than men to experience sleep problems during vacation.

Cadieux identified several ways to improve sleep during vacation and to experience relaxing respite:

  • Start packing several days before you leave. Don’t wait until the night before to decide what you are going to pack.
  • Don’t overextend yourself before vacation. Get several good nights of sleep before leaving and start refreshed.
  • Make accommodations as familiar and comfortable as possible. For example, when making reservations, request a quiet room if you are sensitive to noise. Bring your own pillow and comfortable pajamas to simulate and remind you of the comfort of your own home. Book in a hotel that has an infrared sauna so you can maintain your wellness routine abroad.
  • Eat and drink moderately. Overeating may cause indigestion and alcohol consumption can cause you to wake in the middle of the night, disrupting a full night of rest.
  • Choose a vacation that provides optimum relaxation if you could use the rest. The survey results show that 12 percent of those who visited family came home "exhausted" while 30 percent of those who went on a cruise came home "well rested."
  • Plan to get a full night’s sleep. You can be involved in many activities during your vacation and still get a full night of rest.
  • Stop worrying. Don’t put work, family or financial problems on your vacation itinerary. If you must work, limit your efforts to high-priority tasks.
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