Need a Vacation to Recover From Your Vacation?

Poll finds many worn out afterwards

FRIDAY, July 12, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- If you felt worn out before the vacation, wait till you get back.

A new Gallup Organization survey of 1,000 adult vacationers found more than half -- 54 percent -- come home feeling tired. Nineteen percent of respondents said they were "very tired" or even "exhausted" upon their return.

"Even though this is somewhat disturbing information, it's information that most of us have pretty much felt has been there all along. It just hadn't been documented," says Dr. Roger Cadieux, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Penn State University's College of Medicine.

The culprit seems to be a combination of poor sleep before and during the holiday.

"Most people have difficulty even before they get on the road. They try to do too much ahead of time to anticipate enough time to take a vacation," Cadieux says.

Preparing seemed to be the most stressful period. According to the survey, 56 percent of respondents packed the night before or the day of the trip. Almost one-third -- 32 percent -- of the people went to bed at least two hours later than usual because they were still trying to get ready, while 54 percent reported waking up earlier than normal.

Thirty-six percent of those who were employed reported working harder or staying at the office later than usual in the days preceding the vacation. About one-quarter -- 26 percent -- reported the increased job stress caused them to lose sleep.

The disruptions to sleep continued while they were away from home, with many staying up later and waking up earlier than normal. Have to see all the monuments!

Ten percent had trouble sleeping while they were away. Most often, this seemed to be due to unfamiliar or noisy surroundings, as well as uncomfortable beds or accommodations. About one-fifth attributed their sleep deprivation to medical conditions including indigestion, and 9 percent said they were worrying about work, financial or family problems. Women were about twice as likely as men to have sleep problems while on vacation.

It is possible to have a restful vacation, it just means starting a little ahead of time:

  • If you've already got a sleep problem such as insomnia, bear in mind that a vacation is not going to solve it. "They're going to take the symptom with them on vacation. It's like putting it in their suitcase," Cadieux says. Have a heart-to-heart with your doctor and try to resolve the problem before going way.
  • Don't pack at the last minute. Start selecting and folding the items you're going to take with you several days beforehand.
  • Don't overextend yourself before the vacation. Try to get several good nights of sleep before you leave.
  • Make traveling part of the vacation. Instead of crunching 600 miles into one day, drive 200 miles a day and take in the sites as you go.
  • Make sure you bring things to do for yourself and the children so you don't arrive at your destination stressed out.
  • If you're flying, bring a blindfold and ear plugs to block out distractions. Sit away from the aisle, hydrate yourself (this means no alcohol), and tell the flight attendant you don't want to be disturbed.
  • Choose a destination in line with what you want to accomplish, Cadieux advises. Egypt may be a good place if you want to see the world, but not if you just want to relax. Tailor the time period to the destination. Four days may be plenty for a beach vacation, but not to see the pyramids.
  • Regardless of where you go, don't try to squeeze too much activity into too short a period of time. "Make sure you don't get up real early to catch every sight and sound possible," Cadieux says.
  • Make sure your accommodations are conducive to a good night's rest. You might even want to take along a pillow or favorite comforter to make the new surroundings more familiar. Ask for a firm mattress if you have back problems, and avoid hotels or motels on busy streets. Request a room away from the elevator and the ice machine.
  • Eat and drink moderately and, in particular, avoid drinking too much alcohol as this can disrupt sleep cycles. Eating late at night can disrupt sleep by causing indigestion.

The survey was sponsored by Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc., a pharmaceutical company.

What To Do

For more information on sleep and sleep disorders, visit the National Sleep Foundation. And the National Safety Council offers these tips on driver fatigue.

SOURCES: Roger Cadieux, M.D., clinical professor, psychiatry, Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pa.
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