Sleep Problems and Summer Vacation - A Bad Mix

Watch OTC Medications, Use the Sun for Jet Lag and Other Tips

From the National Sleep Foundation

Jun 25, 2003, 01:00 ET from National Sleep Foundation

    WASHINGTON, June 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Summer vacation time is near, and
 whether your travels take you to different countries and time zones, or a
 nearby cottage on the beach, you don't want your precious days to feel the
 brunt of sleepless nights. And jet lag isn't the only sleep disrupter.
     "Many people don't realize how much their daily activities can affect
 their nightly sleep, especially when they're on vacation," says Richard L.
 Gelula, executive director of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). "For
 example, we tend to eat more and consume more alcohol when we're on vacation.
 And then there's those snacks, many loaded with chocolate -- and caffeine!"
 Gelula adds. In addition to the chocolate, a heavy rich meal close to bedtime,
 or alcohol, may mean heartburn and a night without sufficient, restful sleep.
     But in addition to foods, many over the counter (OTC) medications may have
 side effects that can put a crimp on summer fun. Certain antihistamines often
 taken for allergies or cold symptoms have ingredients that can cause
 sleeplessness at night and sleepiness during the day. These OTC drugs include:
      * brompheniramine, the ingredient in Dimetane(R) and Comtrex(R) Maximum
        Strength Acute Head and Cold
      * diphenhydramine, found in Benadryl(R) Allergy and Contac(R) Day/Night
      * triprolidine, the active ingredient in Actifed(R) and Sudafed(R) Sinus
      * pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant found in OTC cold remedies and
        diet aids may also cause insomnia
     These active ingredients are also found in many products sold under store
 brands such as CVS or RiteAid.
     "It is important to read the labels and familiarize yourself with certain
 ingredients," says Meir Kryger, MD, a director of the National Sleep
 Foundation. "If you think that over-the-counter medications are causing
 drowsiness, your pharmacist or doctor can assist with potential alternatives.
 If you're taking other prescription drugs, ask your doctor about appropriate
 use and potential side effects. Sometimes, simply taking a medication in the
 morning instead of at night can mean the difference between a good night's
 sleep or a day you wish you were asleep," Dr. Kryger adds. He also cautions
 that if you take medications that can cause drowsiness, don't plan to drive.
 Dr. Kryger is Director of the Sleep Disorders Centre at St Boniface Hospital
 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
     NSF offers the following tips to help you sleep well while you're away
 from home:
     Minimizing jet lag:
      * Anticipate time zone changes in advance. If you're traveling east, get
        up and go to bed earlier beginning a few days prior to your trip, and
        a few hours later if you're heading west.
      * Arranging for a late afternoon or early evening arrival will give your
        body time to adjust to the time change.
      * Live by local time. Try to remain awake until at least 10 p.m. local
        time to help you get a full night's sleep,
      * Enjoy the sunlight, especially in the morning, to help regulate your
        biological clock. Daylight helps regulate the biological clock by
        keeping you awake; conversely, darkness can induce sleep and worsen
        jet lag.
     Traveling by car:
      * Get a good night's sleep the night before, especially if you have a
        long trip.
      * Avoid driving too early in the morning or late at night, when you are
        normally asleep.
      * Schedule regular stops every 100 miles or two hours.
      * Have a place to sleep, if your trip requires an overnight stop.
      * Travel with a companion to help watch for signs of fatigue.
     General Travel Tips:
      * Take naps -- Short naps (15-45 minutes) can be refreshing, help you
        acclimate to a new time zone and stay alert on long drives. Avoid naps
        close to bedtime. On the road, be sure to pull off in a safe,
        well-lighted area away from traffic.
      * Caffeine care -- A caffeinated beverage or energy drink can promote
        short-term alertness and may be good for long drives, however, alcohol
        and foods and beverages with caffeine should be avoided three to four
        hours before bedtime.
      * Your home away from home -- check it out -- If you're checking into a
        hotel or motel, check out the room before you check in. Make sure it
        is quiet, away from noisy areas such as the elevator or ice machine.
        Try to avoid facing a busy road or highway. Make sure the mattress is
        comfortable and if you have allergies, ask for pillows without
      * Keep your bedtime routine. Going to sleep and awakening at your regular
        times helps avoid sleep disruptions. Relaxing in a warm bath or hot
        tub can help promote sleep.
      * Bring familiar items with you such as a pillow, alarm clock and other
        bedroom items. Earplugs and eye masks can help keep out noise and
        unwanted light.
      * Don't sunburn -- Sunburn is a major cause of sleep disruption for
        adults and children.
     Traveling with Children
     Traveling with children presents its own special challenges regarding
 sleep. Keeping your child's usual napping and bedtime routine and bringing
 along comfort toys and belongings such as a favorite blanket or pillow, can
 help with his/her sleep away from home. When travel involves another time zone
 for more than a few days, these tips can help your child (and you) adjust:
      * Expose your child to bright light in the morning rather than the
        afternoon. This will help shift your child's internal biological clock
        and adjust to new schedules.
      * Try to shift all sleep times -- nap and bed time -- and keep them at
        the new time while you're away.
      * Be patient. It may take up to a week for your child to make the
        adjustment in his/her sleep habits.
     The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization
 dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving public
 understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting public
 education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. NSF is based in Washington,
 DC. Visit us on the Web at

SOURCE National Sleep Foundation