Holidays, especially cruise holidays, are for decompressing and relaxing, having your every whim catered to and not having to lift a finger. But holidays, in general, are also for sleeping in and catching up on all the sleep we’ve sacrificed back at home.
However, it turns out that getting more sleep could just be one big holiday enigma, as surprising new research has shown that over 70% of British people are struggling to get a good night’s sleep on holiday.
The research was carried out on behalf of Princess Cruises, who got to the bottom of the problem by revealing that the most popular reason for lack of sleep is being too hot or cold, affecting over half (55%) of us.
Another popular reason for not getting a good night’s sleep was an uncomfortable bed, which sadly affected all age groups. Nearly half of cruisers were unable to sleep due to an uncomfortable bed, especially those over 55 (55%).
Along with changing temperatures, the seeming perks of a cruise holiday were also behind passengers getting a bad night’s sleep.
Irregular bedtimes affected 27% of those surveyed and having a coveted afternoon siesta affected 15%. Obviously, jet lag also came into the equation, but only disturbing the sleep patterns of 15% of travellers.
But why on a cruise holiday, designed to help you recharge and relax, are customers not getting a good night’s sleep, and how can this be combatted?
How to sleep better… before the holiday
According to sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, there are a handful of tips you can follow to ensuring you get a good night’s sleep on a cruise, with many beginning before you’ve even stepped foot on the ship.
“Stick to your normal bedtime if possible as consistency is key,” says Dr Breus. “When sleep has a regular rhythm, your biological clock will be in sync and your body will continue to operate normally.”
His advice is echoed by another doctor, general practitioner at London Doctors Clinic Dr Ciara Yeates. “Begin adjusting your body clock several days before departure,” she adds. “For eastward travel bring your bedtime forward by one to two hours and for westward travel put it back. This will make the time shift less dramatic and easier to adjust to when you arrive.”
Flying to your port of embarkation? “If possible, try to book a flight which arrives at your destination during the early evening, and then stay awake until about 10pm before going to bed,” Dr Ciara advises. “It is also important to avoid napping excessively on the flight.”
How to sleep better… on the ship
“If you’re in warmer climates give the sun a ‘high five’ every morning,” advises Dr Beaus. “Getting outside in the sun for 15 minutes each morning – within 15-30 minutes of waking up – helps to regulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Your internal body clock (the circadian rhythm) runs on a 24-hour schedule and functions best when you are exposed to a regular pattern of light and dark.”
With so many time zones crossed, keeping your body clock in check is seriously important when it comes to regulating sleep, and Dr Ciara advises against napping on arrival, and staying up until at least 10pm local time.
Depending on your cruise package, this may be the most challenging way to achieve a good night’s sleep – limiting alcohol. “Don’t have alcohol within three hours of bedtime,” insists Dr Beaus. “While alcohol can make you sleepy, it doesn’t help you achieve restful sleep. In fact, alcohol prevents you from reaching the deep stages of sleep, dehydrates you and awakens you in the middle of the night (usually to go to the bathroom).”
“Alcohol and caffeine both act as natural stimulants so you should avoid these, particularly three to four hours before bedtime,” agrees Dr Ciara.
If you’re lucky enough to be in a cabin with a bathtub, relaxing in the tub before bedtime is also known to help ease you into a good night’s sleep. “A warm bath can help you ease the day’s stress,” adds Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director of The London Sleep Centre. “Ahead of bedtime, and the heat helps your body prepare for sleep and relax both your muscles and mind. But try to leave some time between getting out of the bath and going to bed.”
During the day
Your choices made throughout your day on board can also affect the way you sleep, especially when it comes to movement. Sea days can make staying active more of a challenge, but most ships will offer fitness facilities and even classes.
“Staying active can help speed the transition of your body clock and make you more prepared to sleep at your new bedtime,” explains Dr Beaus. “Whether that’s a brisk walk around the promenade, a tranquil yoga class, or a high-powered spin class. Avoid exercise within three to four hours before bedtime as it can stimulate the mind and energise the body in ways that interfere with sleep.”
In an effort to help its customers sleep properly and get the most out of their cruise holiday, Breus has even developed the Princess luxury bed, available on all cruises including enhanced mattress support and individually wrapped coils, as well as an array of pillow choices.
So just remember, fight the urge to nap when you get to your cabin, avoid too many trips to the pool bar and why not try out a yoga or spin class on board… you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time.