Travel Tips for Healthy and Happy Trips

by Country Inns & Suites
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Patience isn’t Ray Parrillo’s strong suit. A sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Parrillo travels frequently covering professional and college sports. And some of the “things people do on planes” really annoy him. Which is why he always travels with a book.

 “I always read when I’m on a flight, usually a novel or something biographical,” Parrillo says. “It’s the only time I sit in one place without being distracted. Reading blocks out my surroundings—an added benefit, aside from the joy of reading something good.”

According to a Harris Interactive telephone poll, reading beats out TV watching, spending time with family and going to the movies when it comes to leisure time activities. When asked their favorite pastimes, 35 percent of the 1,014 adults surveyed made reading their top choice.

“We see a continued enthusiasm for reading,” says Leslie Burger, president
of the American Library Association. “Library visits have more than doubled in the past decade, with circulation of books and other resources now past the 2 billion mark. Add the increased number of communitywide reading programs, and reading is clearly a popular pastime.

For business travelers, reading provides a distraction from less-than-ideal conditions. According to Dr. Thomas H. Crook, author of The Memory Advantage, reading is a way to give yourself space, especially when traveling in unknown territory with strangers sitting all around you. “Reading affects your mood and can impact your memory of the experience,” he says. “It takes our minds off the problems of today.”

To get the most out of reading on the road, author April Masini finds that wearing noise-canceling headphones reduces distractions and keeps her seatmate from chatting. She also carries a pair of non-prescription readers with her to reduce eyestrain. A book light is another way to protect your eyes from strain. And as much as she might be tempted to read work-related materials, she doesn’t.

The principle applies to children too, according to attorney Barbara Shaffer, who often travels with her 5-year-old, Anabel. “She’s just starting to learn to read, but we bring a lot of books and read to her,” Shaffer says. “Reading takes her mind off her surroundings, especially if we’re waiting in airports, and puts her mind into the story. And since it keeps her occupied and quiet, it benefits everybody.”

Travel provides a nice change in your daily rhythm, which can be both beneficial and stimulating. However, it can also take a toll on your sleeping patterns, jarring your internal clock and causing you to feel—yawn—less than your best.

At home, stress levels and performance expectations on the job can make eight hours of sleep per night seem like a luxury. Studies suggest, however, that restful sleep is not an extra that we can live without. A good night’s sleep, or the lack of it, can have a tremendous impact on work life, memory, coordination, mood and health.

Shakespeare had a point when he called sleep the “chief nourisher in life’s feast.” The problems that arise from sleep deprivation are well-known. Lack of sleep reduces reaction time, impairs motor skills and impedes simple recall of newly learned information.

So what’s the good news? Sleep can truly be nourishing and restorative. Your body heals itself while you sleep, repairing cellular damage and cleansing impurities from your system. Blood pressure is lowered, and the body secretes cortisol and melatonin, hormones that can help the body fight off age-related illnesses and even cancer.

Now that you know what sleep means to your health and well-being, can you make up for lost time? Absolutely. You can begin to reap the benefits of good sleep habits by making a few simple changes:

  •   Sleep on a schedule, allowing your body to set its internal clock.
  • Get regular exercise, though not right before bedtime, to deepen sleep.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that won’t leave you either hungry or too full before bed.
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment, including a bed that conforms to your body and provides optimum support for your spine.

Whether you are at home or on the road, the wholesome effects of a good night’s sleep enhance everything you do.