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Stress Management Health Center

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4 Tips for a Less Stressful Vacation

Experts explain ways to leave stress behind when you take off for that much needed holiday.

Vacation Buster No. 2: Sleep Starvation continued...

Then there is the safety concern. Rosekind says a sleep deficit of just two hours can affect performance in the same way a blood alcohol level of 0.05 can.

With such impaired functioning, people obviously put themselves at great risk when they drive, or when they participate in activities such as kayaking, jet skiing, hiking, or biking.

Rosekind has tips for people who'd like to minimize sleep deprivation and its undesired effects:

  • Take the time to prepare for your trip. If you take a personal day off and think of it as part of your vacation, you have a better chance of going into your getaway more relaxed and coming out of it more rejuvenated. If you cannot take the time off, try preparing for your trip at least a week earlier than usual.
  • Manage jet lag. Remember that your internal clock prefers to have a longer day rather than a shorter one. This is why it's generally harder to adjust to time change when you are traveling east as opposed to west. Anticipate the jet lag and schedule your vacation activities accordingly. Also make a special effort to get as much sleep as possible to reduce the effect of jet lag. If time zone changes remain a big problem for you, visit the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) web site for more information on how to beat it.
  • Take naps. Short bouts of sleep during the day can help boost performance.
  • Use caffeine wisely. Caffeinated beverages can help enhance your performance and mood if used in a strategic way. Keep in mind that you will need 100 milligrams to 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of a big cup of coffee or several soft drinks) to get the desired results. It takes the stimulant 15 to 30 minutes to take effect, and lasts three to four hours. Just make sure you don't drink it close to bedtime as it can ruin sleep.

To ward against the "first night effect," it may help to find lodging in areas with familiar noise levels. The NSF recommends using earplugs and eye masks to help drown out noise and unwanted light. If possible, also bring familiar bedtime items such as a personal pillow or alarm clock.

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