It’s so common to be unable to sleep the night before a big event. You might have an exciting vacation coming up, but you’re worried you’ll have a hard time dozing off on the nights before taking off. But what are the reasons behind this sudden bout of insomnia?
You can’t sleep before vacation because the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline interfere with your ability to sleep well. Anxiety, worry, and excitement related to traveling could also be keeping you awake before your vacation.
In this article, I will outline why you can’t sleep before your travels, explain how the stress hormones work to keep you up. I will also give you pointers on how to get a good sleep before your trip. Read on!
Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep Before A Vacation
If you’re stressed about your upcoming trip, some hormones may be messing up your sleep and keeping you up.
Several factors can affect your sleep quality. Let’s take a look at them in more detail below:
The Stress Hormones
Some people feel anxious or worried before a trip. Focusing on your worries means your body perceives some kind of danger. In response, it releases these stress hormones that keep you awake.
The fight or flight response evolved to protect us from aggressors and threats. But it hasn’t caught up with the 21st-century lifestyles we now live! By ruminating on your worries or thinking about what could go wrong, you might be causing your cortisol and adrenaline to spike.
The hormone adrenaline is one of the “fight or flight” stress hormones that prepare us to protect ourselves. It is released to help us react quickly in situations that are stressful, exciting, dangerous or threatening.
So, if you’re super excited or stressed about your upcoming vacation, your body could be releasing a lot of adrenaline. And as its role is to protect us, naturally, it wants to keep us awake and alert. Not great if your goal is to doze off calmly.
But what if you’re not stressed about traveling? It could be that your excitement is causing your body to produce adrenaline. You’re all revved up and ready to go! While this is great, you need to be well-rested to enjoy your journey fully.
Another stress hormone, cortisol, impacts our sleep too. Like adrenaline, it’s released by the adrenal gland and keeps us alert and focused. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and is highest in the morning.
In addition to gearing you up to fight or flee, cortisol suppresses non-essential bodily functions. Sleeping isn’t exactly essential when you’re in a threatening situation!
If you’re worrying excessively, you could be driving up your cortisol.
Anxiety, Excitement, and Stress
In addition to adrenaline and cortisol discussed above, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are other hormones associated with happiness and excitement.
Whether you’re worried about waking up on time to catch your early flight or are just excited about hitting the beach in a new destination, thinking about your upcoming holiday could be interfering with your sleep.
You might also feel very anxious about any of the following:
- Having everything packed and ready for your vacation.
- Dealing with airports and flying (or a fear of flying).
- What might go wrong on your vacation.
- Making sure you arrive on time.
- Meeting new people.
- Cross-country or international driving.
- Time differences or cultural differences.
- Making sure your family has everything they need for the trip.
It’s no wonder that many people find travel to be stressful!
Around 1/3 of adults live with insomnia symptoms (with up to 10% meeting the criteria for an insomnia disorder). If you’ve got a big event, such as a vacation, coming up, you might notice your insomnia flaring up.
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Waking up several times during the night.
- Not being able to sleep for long enough to feel rested the next day.
Almost everyone has experienced a restless night before an exciting or big day. But if you already have insomnia, it could be doubly worse for you.
Even if you usually manage your insomnia successfully, a big vacation could be throwing you off.
Also, people living with anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental health conditions frequently experience insomnia. Despite looking forward to your journey, it’s common to feel a mix of emotions about travel.
Keep reading to learn some tips for handling your travel-related sleeplessness.
How To Get a Good Sleep Before Your Vacation
Now that we know the culprits behind our disturbed sleep, what can we do to get some more shut-eye? Thankfully, there are helpful methods that many people use to get some restless slumber (especially before a big event). Here are some tips:
- Practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to sticking to healthy habits that contribute to a good night’s rest. Try to keep a regular sleep routine, minimize the use of digital screens before sleep, eat healthily, and make sure your bedroom is comfortable..
- Plan and pack well ahead of time. One of the best tips is to ensure you’re all packed and prepared well before you leave. Your mind will be more at ease and restful if you know you’ve got everything ready.
- Exercise during the day. You’ll be more tired out and will sleep better.
- Practice relaxation and mindfulness. Meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness are all great techniques to calm your mind and body.
- Take melatonin and other sleeping aids. Melatonin tablets (in different strengths) such as the Natrol Melatonin Fast Dissolve Tablets (available on Amazon.com) can help to get enough sleep. Alternatively, you can ask your doctor to prescribe you a sleep aid.
- Try sleep hypnosis audio. There are excellent sleep hypnosis YouTube videos and tracks you can listen to. Also, try out podcasts designed to help listeners sleep.
- Get out of bed if you can’t sleep. If you have insomnia, you may associate your bed with restless nights. Rather than lying in bed for too long, get out of bed and do some calming, relaxing pastimes.
- Ask a friend for help. When you’re feeling excessively anxious, you can always ask a loved one for reassurance and practical support.
Sleep While Traveling
If you’re worried about sleepless nights on your trip, rest assured (pun intended) that many others also go through it. Studies have documented the “first night effect” when people spend their first night in a new location.
Here are some tips for getting restful sleep on vacation:
- Bring along sleep aids, such as sleep masks and earbuds. You can get sets such as the Dream Essentials Sleep Mask (available on Amazon.com). It comes with earplugs and a pouch. It is also washable so you can use it on multiple trips!
- Figure out any time zone differences ahead of time. If possible, and to avoid jet lag, try to adjust your sleep to match time differences before you leave.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. We all want to have a good time on vacation, but alcohol can interfere with a solid night’s rest.
- Bring a comfort object from home. A cozy blanket or pillow can make you feel more secure in a new environment.
You’ve got your big holiday coming up, and you just can’t get to sleep. It’s a common occurrence and you’re not alone.
While you may be panicking that you’ll be too tired to get your trip started on time, don’t worry. It’s helpful to understand that the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline cause your sleeplessness.
By following the methods in this article, you’ll soon be getting your forty winks. Practice good sleep hygiene, pack and plan ahead of time, and try out mindfulness and relaxation techniques. Take melatonin and other sleep aids if necessary. And enjoy your vacation!