A passenger sleeps on the floor in a terminal at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy, near Paris, after flights were cancelled due to snow and freezing temperatures December 24, 2010 Image Credit: Reuters

For some, the holidays are the best time to catch up on their sleep. But if you’re like us, come the holiday season, and we whisk ourselves off to scenic places, where we pack everything possible into a short trip. No sight is too unimportant, no shop too small to visit.

Little wonder, then, that we return home with a massive sleep debt, jet lag or worse. Not only can it take weeks to return to a regular schedule, but in that time you could be doing your health some serious damage.

We turned to sleep experts Dr Irshaad Ebrahim from The London Sleep Centre in Dubai for some top vacay sleep tips. Here are his recommendations.

Stick to sleep routines

We know holidays mean cramming in a lot of action to make the days count. However, it is advisable that no matter how upbeat you may feel, it helps to stay tuned to your usual sleep-wake timings to avoid a disturbance in your sleep schedules. Of course with party nights calling, it may not always be possible but you can at least try to stick by it, as much as you can, Dr Irshaad says. 

Plan for jet lag 

You probably don’t want jet lag when on vacation because it’s uncomfortable and causes fatigue. A good way to cope with it is to advance or delay your sleep-wake pattern depending on the direction of your travel, a little ahead of your vacation. This will help the body adjust easily as well as minimize effects of jet lag. Reset your watch to the new time zone as soon as you hop onto the flight. Though this is psychological, it helps in connecting better with the time zone.

Take your sleep buddies with you

Make some space in your suitcase for some of your sleep buddies like your comfortable neck pillow and blind. Some kids are used to tugging to a soft toy and dozing off cosily into slumber. It makes sense to lay off a few clothes and carry their favourite toy instead, to help them sleep better. Don’t forget to load that instrumental track or any of your ‘wind-me-down’ music on your phone to experience the pleasures of relaxing on vacation. Even the usual music numbers do feel different in different locations because your state of mind means you can enjoy them better.

Choose your sleep environment

Pitch-black darkness may be foreign to us by virtue of living in dazzling metropolitan areas but that’s just another way to ensure sound sleep in new environments. Low-lit or dark interiors could help you sleep better than usual. Take advantage of your vacation destination and try sleeping under the moonlit sky and starry night. We bet you will want to do it all nights until you are there!

Check your room's temperature

Many hotel rooms can seem extra chilly, but that's optimal for insomniacs because our body rests best in lower temperatures. It’s a good idea to adjust the air conditioners to suit your comfort levels to sleep better. A quick way to reduce your body heat and adjust to the room temperature is to have a shower right before you go to sleep, Dr Irshaad says. A refreshing bath does wonders in rejuvenating you from the day’s hard work and soothing an aching body, prepping it for a good night’s sleep.

Ditch the tech 

A vacation should ideally be a complete holiday from your daily routine which also means leaving behind your go-to gadgets like hand phones, tablets, laptops and the usual. Screen lights disturb sleep and checking your emails definitely doesn’t help in any way to your circadian rhythms. Even watching TV before bedtime is mentally stimulating and could disturb your sleep. It is best to shut off from technology at least an hour before you sleep, Dr Irshaad advises.

Get enough exercise

You may be on vacation but there are no excuses when it comes to exercise. Even working out for 20-30 minutes reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and helps you sleep better. There is no need to make time especially for exercise. Explore your holiday destination on foot whether you do it on a walk or run; or even a splash of swimming fun in the hotel pool or beach will ensure enough exercise whilst enjoying your family time.

If you are serious about a pleasant vacation then sleep should be your top priority. Good sleep will not just allow you a relaxed vacation but will make it worth the trouble of planning one.