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We need good sleep to function at our best… and yes, even in the RV.
I like sleep. There, I said it. And not just a little sleep, either. Give me 9 blissful, undisturbed hours each night. Without it, prepare to meet my evil, puffy eyed twin.
When you’re an RVer though, sleep can get tricky. So many things, once on the road, are out of your control. Train tracks next to your RV site, mosquito sieges, lights blaring in from something resembling the Seinfeld Chicken Roasters sign— these are just a few of our personal late-night misadventure stories.
Don’t get me wrong, the RV lifestyle is incredible, and we’d never give it up. But challenges do pop up. Things that mess with sleep are just part of the RV deal. James and I travel with a sleep arsenal (see the next pic) so when those rare bad nights happen, we’re ready. When it’s 1am and our neighbors are still shooting off fireworks, my sleep arsenal becomes the most valuable thing in the RV. Because, like I said, lots of sleep is my jam.
- Silicone Putty Earplugs
- Sleep Mask
- Calming Reading Material
- Tiny Fan (for both cooling and white noise)
- Lavender Essential Oil Pillow Spray
- Herbal Ginger Tea
- Meditation Bolster Pillow
It’s unfortunate there’s a stigma that sleeping only a few hours is cool. People boast about it. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Those who hardly sleep are seen as tough, even rebel-like… worthy of admiration for their ability to ward off a full night’s sleep. The rest of us? We’re likely just plain old lazy. Show of hands, who’s slept in late before and then felt guilty about it? That’s the stigma once again, making you think that sleeping in is bad. I’m determined to start a new trend:
‘Sleep –and lots of it– is cool. So cool, in fact, that we should all do it more.’
I’ve got Dr. Thomas Roth, from Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, on my side here. According to Dr. Roth, “The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without impairment, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.” So even people who think they’re doing just fine on 5 hours a night really do need more like 7-9 hours each night, with no exceptions— not even for RV trips.
When ‘RV-trip mindset’ kicks in, we get a little looser with our healthy habits. Like staying up later, and putting off bedtime so we can squeeze all the extra fun we can out of the trip. The trouble is, our circadian biology is so sensitive to sleep deprivation, even just one hour of lost sleep can bring on negative health effects.
Take the daylight savings time study done back in 2014 (and repeated in the years since). Statistics revealed that the risk of having a heart attack the Monday after daylight savings time begins in the Spring—so, right after we’ve all had an hour LESS sleep—was 24% higher than any other Monday of the year. A coincidence? Scientists don’t think so. Because after daylight savings time ends in the fall—right after we’ve had an hour of EXTRA sleep—heart attacks dropped 21%. This doesn’t mean lack of sleep causes heart attacks. Rather, it suggests people already in a vulnerable state become even more susceptible due to just one single hour less of sleep than normal. And really, that’s an ongoing theme with poor sleep. It happens with any of your body’s systems. The hormones and enzymes that aid the thousands of biochemical reactions happening in your body get out of whack, leaving your body’s systems more vulnerable to a variety of problems.
It makes me wonder… did Mother Nature get this wrong? Where’s the body’s fail-safe for when we find ourselves in sleep debt? If I were in food debt, my body would cover for me then. It would pull fuel from my fat cells, and all would be hunky-dory, my health uncompromised and fully in the black. But Mother Nature doesn’t have any sort of fat cells for sleep. She never came up with a way for our bodies to store it up. I love how sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker sums it up, “Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology.” So it isn’t a luxury. It’s a biological necessity.
I’ve talked mostly about the importance of the quantity of sleep you get– which, to be clear is 7 or more hours a night. But that’s only part of the equation. There are two more critical factors: the quality of your sleep and the regularity of it.
My beloved 9 hours does me no good if I’m not going through my sleep cycles as I need, getting plenty of deep sleep and REM, without disruption– that’s sleep quality. Regularity shouldn’t be neglected either. Your internal clock runs a tight ship. It is happiest when your sleep happens at the same time each night. Drag your master clock around too much, and now you’re affecting your health.
Getting good quality sleep is the trickiest of the three factors, since we have less control over it. Once we’re asleep, nature takes over, and it, not us, determines how long we’re in each phase of sleep. Our job is to set the scene with the most ideal conditions possible:
- Get a good dose of exercise (though not too close to bedtime) in your days.
- Avoid eating close to bedtime.
- Keep your room cooler (around 65 degrees).
- Avoid alcohol or caffeine later in the day.
- Ditch the devices and dim the lights in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Have a relaxing wind-down routine: meditation, reading, shower/bath, etc.
But, even doing everything right doesn’t guarantee a good night’s sleep. RVers know this better than most. So, my best advice is to pack your own sleep arsenal in the RV, stocked with things to calm you and block noise, and use it when you need it.
Well? Have I convinced you to join me on the “sleep is cool” bandwagon? I hope so. Perhaps it helps to think of it this way:
What if there was one single drug out there that could provide protection from Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, depression, heart disease, injuries… its only side-effects being a clearer head, more energy, and a significantly lengthened life. We’d all take it in a heartbeat, wouldn’t we?
The thing is, that drug is readily available to all of us, totally free of charge, no prescription required. It’s called sleep.