Keeping up with the Overends: Sleep’s not just for Sheep!

Greetings from Plett, where I’m having the time of my life. Partying all over South Africa and luxuriating in the slice of heaven that is Emily Moon resort is the stuff of which dreams are made, the only (small) snag being the constant dearth of sleep. A small price to pay I know!

I have promised myself (again!) that this will be the last time I’ll travel with a pre-existing sleep deficit. I was a busy, busy bee in the few weeks preceding my trip to South Africa and my Zzzs were severely neglected… #MyBad!

I’ve put together a few commonsensical reminders to help you exert some damage limitation on your health while travelling through improved sleep quality. And to maybe better equip me to Keep Up with the Overends should the opportunity to party with them for three consecutive weeks arise again in the future.

Travelling can be stressful and instituting an effective sleep routine as best you can, given the obvious constraints of time zone changes, upsets to your usual daily routine and circadian rhythm and so on, to ensure as close to a solid ~8 hour sleep per 24 hours as possible, is probably the most important habit to adopt in order to bolster your body’s defences.

Whether at home or away, we could all benefit from establishing (or improving our existing) sleep hygiene practices; sleep hygiene being an umbrella term for the steps we take to afford ourselves the best possible chance of a refreshing, restorative night’s sleep.   

(image from


On that note, here are those reminders:

  • Avoid stimulants (namely alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine) in the 4-6 hour prelude to bedtime.  Although alcohol may seem to promote sleepiness at first, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, increasing the number of awakenings and reducing overall sleep quality. Aim to limit alcohol consumption to one to two drinks daily and avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime where possible. No mean feat on holidays I know, but even applying the rule every second or third night would be a step in the right direction!
  • Lighten up on late-night meals. Eat something light and easily digested, such as a portion of carbs, before bed if you’re peckish. And consume the lion’s share of your fluids early in the day, so as to eliminate disruptive nocturnal bathroom visits, or at least keep them to an absolute minimum.  
  • Create a soothing, sleep-promoting pre-bedtime routine incorporating, for example, some light reading followed by a milky drink or camomile tea and a warm bath and/or relaxation exercises. Try slathering on some Lush lavender-infused ‘Sleepy lotion’. 


A much needed lazy bubble bath at Emily Moon…

  • Transform your bedroom into a soothing, calm, sleep sanctuary free from anything that might not be conducive to sleep, such as gaudy colours.


  • Keep phones, laptops and other devices out of the room to avoid disruption as well as to strengthen the association between the bedroom and sleep.
  • Any type of stress can elicit extra cortisol production. Cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, is associated with increased alertness and therefore hinders sleep. If you tend to take your worries to bed, try jotting them down in a notebook and leave them aside for a designated slot the following day, after which time you’ll park your worries (or To Do list) again for another 24 hours.
  • If you remain awake after a period of c. 20 minutes, leave your bed and engage in a sleep-promoting activity – for example listening to relaxing music – in another room until you become sleepy, at which time you return to your bed.
  • That said, don’t fixate on the clock! Keep watches and clocks out of view as watching them will only lead to frustration which is obviously stress-generating and counter-productive.
  • Exercise early in the day. This has been shown to boost restful sleep. Exercising late in the day can leave you with more cortisol than is conducive to sleep so consider your daily routine and plan accordingly. Avoid exercise in the 3 hours before bedtime, apart from maybe some relaxing yoga poses.
  • If you incorporate a nap into your daily routine, nap as early as possible and avoid napping the evening to reduce the risk of reducing your sleep drive.
  • If slumber still hasn’t beckoned despite strict adherence to the above(!), try youtubing a mindfulness sleep-promoting body scan. I recommend this to patients and friends all the time… You’ll never look back!


Queries welcome and if you’d like to read more, please visit…

Have a great and sleep-replete week. I’m about to fly home via Johannesburg and Doha so good luck to me implementing the above on a plane!





My name is Michelle and I’m a Dublin-based GP (family doctor). Life is short: take the minimalist approach to maximise your health!

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