Nutritious eating, regular exercise and quality sleep are keys to good overall health, but lacking balance between these can leave you feeling like nothing’s working right. Learn how to use your body’s powerful natural cycles to your advantage, and tomorrow just got a whole lot brighter.
Decide whether it's smart to nap
No holiday would be complete without the chance to nap, guilt-free, at whim. It can be a tough habit to break when reality strikes again, especially if that reality involves readjusting to a new time zone.
“If you’ve flown all night and enter a new time zone feeling extremely fatigued, having a little nap is not a bad idea,” says Siobhan Banks, senior research fellow at University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research.
“It’s possible to keep yourself jet lagged for exaggeratedly long periods of time but if you’re disciplined about hours of sleep and hours of wakefulness at your destination, you’ll get into synch pretty promptly,” says Sleep Health Foundation chair, Professor David Hillman.
Establish a nightly routine
Establish a nightly routine before bed that relaxes you and helps you to switch off.
“You can’t expect to go to bed when your heart and mind are racing and slip easily into your night-time routine,” says Banks.
“Having a cup of chamomile tea or reading in bed, listening to a mindfulness tape, stretching, and breathing are all great for helping you to calm down and get rid of the stress from the day.”
Exercise is great for relieving stress, but getting sweaty too close to bed can raise your body temperature, your heart rate and release a flood of hormones that you don’t want at that stage of the day.
“Research is mixed about whether insomniacs get benefits from exercise,” says Banks.
Having a warm bath, on the other hand, raises your temperature and then drops it when you get out, which is great preparation for sleep.
Drinking plenty of water and keeping meals light, avoiding overly rich or fatty foods, will help your body adapt to travel and remove any additional stress you have to contend with.
“Long-haul flights and lots of travelling can take a toll on your body’s immunity, making you more susceptible to picking up viruses (not to mention greater exposure to viruses in close quarters with many other people),” says Leanne Elliston, an accredited practising dietitian from Nutrition Australia, ACT.
“Keeping up your fruit and veg intake, for immune boosting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, is essential.”
Say no to sugar
Sugary snacks may help to overcome temporary dips in energy, but they’ll leave you feeling worse once the lift wears off.
“You may feel a quick burst of energy after having a chocolate bar or soft drink, but it won’t last long and you may experience low energy levels later on,” says Doherty.
“Instead, enjoy nutritious snacks like fruit, nuts and yoghurt to help you stay alert and keep your energy up.”
Try not to stress
If insomnia is driving you crazy or you find yourself waking up at ridiculous hours, try not to worry too much – the stress won’t help! In medieval times, it was common practice to break long winter nights into two segments of four-hour sleeps, broken up by a period of activity.
“If you find yourself unable to get back to sleep after half an hour, get up and do something quietly in low light such as reading or listening to music,” says Hillman.
“Avoid bright screens or anything too arousing and head back to bed when you’re drowsy again.”
Words by Chelsea Roffey