Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means most of the US will be traveling or enjoying time off with loved ones. With the warm weather approaching, it’s time to get outdoors! Whether you’re getting away by plane, boat, or car, it’s important to steer clear of jet lag. Some spend their time BBQ’ing and others shop 'til they drop with all the amazing Memorial Day Weekend sales being promoted left and right. Whatever your plans may be—here’s how to conquer your three-day weekend without diminishing your sleep.
You may find yourself snoozing in the car, on a plane, lying on the beach, or maybe even wrapped up in a sleeping bag inside a tent. Either way, I’m sure at some point, you’ll find yourself dozing while you try to keep up this holiday weekend. And if you enjoying dozing off with your pets, then be sure to check out our article about fur babies and your bed.
It’s so easy to over-schedule a vacation; most of us do it without even realizing it. Some plan for Memorial Day Weekend a full 12 months in advance and some fly by the seat of their pants. Plan it or don’t, either way we all work year-round for vacation time and Memorial Day is a holiday we look forward to annually. I’ve found that throughout the years, if I ask someone on Tuesday, “How was your holiday weekend?” I usually have at least one person tell me “Ah, the weekend wasn’t long enough” or “I need a vacation from my vacation.” I find this extremely ironic. Isn’t it funny that you have 72 hours to relax and recharge but we pack in our most eventful and exhausting days possible? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a planner and love to keep busy (and you can put money on it that I will be just as busy as the rest of the country this weekend) I've learned enough about sleep to know that without a good night’s rest, my body won’t be the same.
How to avoid sleep debt while camping
Your body should want to be asleep when it’s dark outside, and alert when it’s light—simple concept, right? Spending just 48 hours entirely outside can move a person’s internal clock 2.5 hours closer to being in sync with our natural sleep-wake cycle.
So, getting outside and camping with your closest friends or family members can be one of the most rejuvenating things you can do for yourself. Your body’s internal clock is synced closer when you’re outdoors because constant exposure to natural light, and, of course, darkness encourages the release of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates circadian rhythm.
Typically, when I’ve camped I wake up unusually early. I always thought this was because of the disorienting new surroundings, and there’s a chance that has something to do with it. But in all reality, it’s natural and healthy to wake up in sync with the sun rising and the birds chirping. There is also a large chance that the reason I wake up feeling so energized is because increasing morning sunlight in any amount can help produce more melatonin closer to nighttime. As your melatonin rises, it’s communicating with your brain saying “okay, it’s time for bed soon.”
There have been those times while camping that those rigid hours of the nighttime chill begin creeping in. Crowding around the fire you’ve built will keep you nice and warm but once the sun falls, and the temperatures drop, your body is doing major preparation without you even realizing it. You’d think that since you sleep in a house that sits conveniently at about 60-67 degrees, that sleeping in a place that can drop down to the 40’s after dark may be uncomfortable. But really, it’s likely that your body will naturally begin feeling sleepy. Sleeping in a colder place and bundling up in your sleeping bag may be the final signal to your body that sleep is inevitable. Wrapping yourself like a giant burrito into your welcoming sleeping bag will lock in the heat and prevent disrupted sleep due to a change in temperature. If you find yourself naturally cold (Yup, that’s me!), try doubling up on blankets or try sit ups in your sleeping bag. (This sounds odd, I know... Picturing yourself doing sit ups in your space-for-two-is-tight tent is not the most ideal thing, but it really works!)
How to get the best night's sleep on the beach
There’s nothing better than the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore. In fact, it’s what I choose to help me sleep at night. The beach is a place that you put in the least amount of effort to do anything besides sitting in the cool breeze, enjoy the distinct smell of the sand and the feel of the warm sun beaming on your skin.
I think there have been times that I’ve slept better on a crowded beach than I have in the comfort of my own home. The environment compliments the purpose of me going on a getaway. The ocean naturally causes you to forget all daily stress and makes it easy to shut your eyes and simply relax into a deep sleep. Once you’re on the beach for just a few hours, you’ll be receiving some of the greatest benefits a person can experience for a truly wonderful night’s sleep. The beach relieves three key factors that inhibit sleep: high stress and anxiety levels, lack of physical fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. Not only are you getting your daily dose of Vitamin D (which conveniently only takes 10 minutes for your body to receive when you’re near the shore), but you’re also wearing yourself out by simply walking on the sand.
How to overcome the BBQ blues
I’d truly hope you’re not falling asleep at your family get together, but I can’t say I haven’t seen my grandpa doze off after filling his tummy under the hot sun. Memorial Day Weekend is the second busiest BBQ holiday and personally, one of my favorite things about getting together to celebrate is the food.
So many different dishes to choose from and taste! I love the smell of the grill heating up, the sweet corn on the cob that’s been roasting and the ice-cold beverages that are passed around to keep us all hydrated throughout the day. Surviving the BBQ food blues is not easy. There are a few side effects to 1. Being out in the sun and 2. Having a full stomach. Chances are, sleep is one of those side effects you’ll be experiencing. Feeling drained after digesting all that delicious, homemade food is typical. We all know the feeling maybe a little too well. Food and alcohol overall influences melatonin production so this feeling of lethargy is common within many people. Try to avoid overeating and if you can, leave at least 2 hours of time between your largest meal and bedtime. This will give your body the time it needs to digest your food, avoiding disruptions while you rest.
Here’s the bottom line: enjoy this time. You deserve it! Eat what you want, but in moderation. Be mindful of when you’re sleeping and how deep you’re sleeping and most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel groggy or sleepy, take 20 minutes (or 90-minutes to get in a full sleep cycle), shut your eyes and wind down. Your body will thank you, and you’ll find yourself feeling more energized and rejuvenated come Tuesday.