You’d think that the cottage—with its fresh air and nature sounds and lack of work stress—would be the best place to catch some zzzs. Sorry: “Anything that shifts you away from what you’re accustomed to can disrupt sleep,” says James MacFarlane, a cottager and a clinical consultant with Canada’s MedSleep. For example: if the room is hotter or colder than your room at home; if it’s noisier or too quiet; if you get too much sun or drink too much booze or eat too much food too late at night. During sleep, your brain is constantly attending to your environment. When that environment changes, your brain is on high alert, attuned to any different sounds, smells, and temperature variations. “It’s an evolutionary survival technique,” says MacFarlane. Helpful, we assume, in some situations—like if you fall asleep while riding a bicycle. But it’s annoying the rest of the time. If you’re having trouble getting shut-eye, try these tips.
1. FIX YOUR BED. Is it big enough? “Beds at the cottage tend to be small. If a couple is used to sleeping in a kingsized bed, sleeping in a double bed is a completely different experience,” says MacFarlane. And how’s your mattress? “People with cottages like to send things to the cottage instead of to the dump,” says MacFarlane. If your mattress is lumpy, stinks, or is sagging in the middle, replace it. “Your mattress has to be comfortable.”
2. COOL IT. Most cottages don’t have air conditioning. If you’re used to it at home, “it’s very difficult to sleep without it at the cottage,” says MacFarlane. The next best thing? Ceiling fans in the bedrooms. He recommends them over tower, desk, or pedestal fans. They’re quieter, and they do a good job of circulating the air. “We have them in every room at our cottage.”
3. CURB BOOZE. The sleep-inducing effects of alcohol last only until your liver metabolizes the stuff. “It’s called the rebound effect,” says MacFarlane. After that, the night is filled with strange dreams, sweating, breathing trouble, and having to pee. A gap between booze time and bedtime will help. “If you have your last drink and then get right into bed, the alcohol will have a more significant effect than if you stop two hours before sleep.” And if you don’t? “Well, at least you’re on vacation,” says MacFarlane. “So hopefully your performance the next day isn’t the most important thing.”