Sleep doctors claim that people with insomnia often sleep better on vacation. “Of course you slept better on your trip,” I can imagine them saying sagely. “You were away from life stressors, you were away from your bed and your worries about sleep. Why wouldn’t you sleep better in places where anxiety hasn’t taken root?”
I’ve never completely accepted this explanation for my luck with sleep on trips. “Insomnia isn’t just a matter of context,” I imagine replying to those learned doctors. “I take my anxiety about sleep with me wherever I go, thank you very much!”
I have a different explanation for why I slept so well as we traveled through Canada. It lies in my husband and travel companion, whose idea of a good vacation is dawn-to-dusk activity and who—true to his nature as a firstborn—likes to direct the show.
Don’t misunderstand: Eric and I are mostly in agreement about the nature of our trips. Active vacations are the kind we prefer. For road trips we pack along hiking shoes, bicycles, and bathing suits. We’d much rather take a walk or visit a museum than simply lie on a beach.
Where we differ is in the amount of activity we like. Eric has tons of stamina and endurance, and he moves into overdrive the minute we leave home.
- Stop at a roadside motel because we’re getting hungry and sick of driving? Why spend a night along an ugly stretch of highway when in 45 minutes we could stop in town and take a bike ride before we eat?!
- Take the metro to the botanical garden when it’s just a few miles away from the hotel? We could as easily walk (never mind that we’ll be on our feet for the rest of the day)!
- Relax after an afternoon hike over hors d’oeuvres and a bottle of wine? But there’s still plenty of light outside. This is the perfect time for a swim!
You get my drift. While I like to insert some R & R in between activities, Eric never winds down.
We have words about the pace we keep from time to time. I’m a firstborn too, and relinquishing directorship of the program doesn’t come easily to me, either. Occasionally my pitch for the R & R prevails, and other times I crack open a book and let Eric work off his energy by himself.
But, traveling with a partner, you’re together 24/7, cooped up in the same car and the same hotel room and dependent on each other in so many ways. On vacation it’s harder for me to resist getting sucked into the Eric vortex, as my sister aptly describes it. I go and do and see more than I would if I were traveling on my own.
The upside to this arrangement is its hypnotic effect on my sleep. By 11 or 12 my book has fallen to the floor and I’m out cold for the rest of the night. (Insomnia? What was that about?)
The downside is the exhaustion I return to at the end of these trips. You’ve heard of having to recover from a vacation? I’m there right now.
How does going on vacation typically affect your sleep?