Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, but increasingly, they just…aren’t. Over 90 percent of people in a recent study admitted that travel stresses them out, for reasons that are obvious: Planning them takes a ton of work, especially with inflation and the post-pandemic travel boom making everything more expensive.
But there are a lot of non-monetary reasons our vacations kind of suck these days. The division between our work and private lives had eroded, and “workcations” are becoming more routine, ruining what should be a respite from our jobs. Our devices make it harder for us to leave our worries behind and truly be in the moment when traveling. And the rise of Influencer culture, which treats travel and vacationing as a job while also making it seem like every moment of your trip needs to be Instagram-ready, is causing serious FOMO.
For these reasons and more, your next trip needs to be a “sleep vacation.” If you wish your time away from work left you refreshed instead of exhausted, stop racing around trying to cram in activities and film TikToks no one will ever watch. Instead, go someplace peaceful and beautiful and get some damn rest.
We’re all suffering from sleep debt
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Prioritizing sleep even when on vacation is crucial because so many of us are sleep deprived. Our everyday lives are packed with work, chores, and family activities. We’ve got so much going on, we can’t go to bed when we know we should—and this “social jet lag” can throw off our sleep cycles, so we’re staying up when we should be sleeping and are unable to fall asleep once we finally do tumble into bed.
The negative effects of sleep deprivation and social jet lag are huge. Poor sleep affects your judgment and decision-making, can lead to chronic health problems including high blood pressure and depression, and can increase anxiety.
So when planning a vacation, consider this: If you’re already in sleep debt, a vacation that doesn’t prioritize rest in some way will just exacerbate the problem and leave you worse off than you were before—which is the exact opposite of what a vacation is supposed to do.
Instead, it’s time to seriously consider sleep and rest as part of your trip.
Engage in some sleep tourism
There are two ways to approach a “sleep vacation.” One is to make sleep the main focus by going on a “sleep retreat” of sorts, which usually involves booking a luxury hotel room that has been specifically designed to promote rest, and mindfulness. So you could travel to Italy and book a sleep retreat at Six Senses Rome, where a program of yoga, meditation, and other therapies are combined with a medical assessment for your sleep challenges and a gorgeous spa atmosphere. Or book a stay at the Park Hyatt New York’s Bryte Restorative Sleep Suite, which features a mattress powered by artificial intelligence and adjusts the conditions in the room constantly to ensure you get the best sleep of your life.
The other approach is to prioritize sleep while on vacation. Most of us focus on activities, meals, and adventures when we travel, and treat sleeping as an afterthought—as long as we have a place to collapse at the end of the day we’re happy. Sleep tourism flips that script: You still go out and see the sights, you still eat the delicious street food and fancy restaurant meals, but you also make absolutely certain that you’re back at the hotel (or another spot where you’ll sleep well) at a reasonable hour. Instead of waking up early and going to bed late (turning your vacations into a grind and fighting your body’s natural sleep rhythms), you allow yourself to sleep as much as you want—and need.
Plan, but plan lightly
Lest I make it sound like vacation planning is the enemy of sleep, consider that a well-planned trip can actually be incredibly relaxing, provided you don’t over-schedule yourself. By all means, book things in advance—it’s much less stressful to go to bed each day knowing what the next day will bring—just don’t book too many things. Instead of running from one activity to another, center each day around one major activity and one relaxing activity. No, you might not be able to check as many sites off of your list, but you’re more likely to enjoy the things you do make time for if you aren’t dragging your feet by 3 p.m. or running purely on caffeine and adrenaline.
The bottom line
Even if you don’t want to plan your vacation around resting, getting some rest should definitely be a part of your plan, or you’ll come back from your trip feeling even more burned out. It’s a self-care practice that will not only improve your overall health and sense of wellbeing, but will also improve your vacation, since it will reduce some of the stress of scheduling every spare minute with an activity. Next time you’re jetting off somewhere, make sure there’s a really, really good bed waiting for you on the other side.