Knowing how to sleep well when you travel can make all the difference in your experience. You’ve saved and planned for this adventure–don’t let anything keep you from enjoying every minute.
According to a study by Wakefield Research, over 60% of Americans have difficulty sleeping during travel. Sleep deprivation is harmful under any circumstance. When we cross two or more time zones, our brains and bodies get confused; it can take a few days to reset our internal clocks.
What happens when we don’t get good sleep?
For travelers, insufficient sleep can result in more than feeling befuddled; concentration and memory are affected. It’s easier to get lost in a new setting. Not the “happy-lost” of deliberately wandering the streets of a new city, but the “panic-lost” when you lose all bearings.
But wait, there’s more! When we’re less alert, safety becomes an issue. Even balance gets unsteady, causing stumbles or falls. And let’s face it, we get grouchy. None of these things are helpful on a trip we were really looking forward to. (Here’s an infographic with more information.)
Here’s how to sleep well when you travel
Want to avoid or minimize sleep woes? Here are some ways to catch more zzzzzzzzzzzz when you travel:
- Plan ahead: Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to settle in quickly when you travel, pack earplugs and a good sleep mask in your carry-on bag. You’ll want them during your flight, as well as in your hotel. Street noise and unfamiliar sounds are huge annoyances. And you never know when unwelcome light may happen. Be prepared.
- Anticipate jet lag: Someday–because of research–we’ll look back and laugh at the olden times when travelers had to deal with jet lag. Until then, it’s no joke. Study up on how to make the best of a long-haul flight and how to deal with jet lag. (I’ve even made it easy for you…click on those links!) The sooner you can get on local time, the better.
- Avoid the caffeine-alcohol cycle: Go ahead and have your morning coffee and happy-hour cocktail…after all, you’re on vacation! But don’t fall into the trap of relying on caffeine each time your energy level drops and a couple of glasses of wine to get drowsy. Caffeine has a half-life of about five hours and alcohol can be detected in blood for about six hours. Both can really mess with the quality of your sleep.
- Get outside: I don’t really need to tell you this, right? That’s why you travel! Allow me to elaborate. Natural light helps your circadian rhythm, or body clock, reset. And walking, hiking, or just moving around encourages natural fatigue that leads to restful and restorative sleep. The only caveat: nothing vigorous right before bedtime.
- Hydrate, hydrate: This isn’t the first time you’ve heard the “H” word…never underestimate the need for water. Dehydration is one of the main causes of travel fatigue, which can lead to the caffeine-alcohol issue above. Yes, I know we avoid drinking water in order to avoid hunting for a WC in an unfamiliar place. But your body is begging you to do it anyway. And guess what? There’s are apps that will locate a toilet, wherever you are!
- Keep a bedtime routine: No, I’m not suggesting that you tuck yourself in precisely at 10pm each and every night. But I’m guessing that when you’re home, you follow the same steps before climbing into bed. Same here. Read, meditate, journal or whatever it is that helps you drift into the Land of Nod.
- Call on Herb: Not Herb at the Reception Desk–herb, as in chamomile tea, lavender spray, or a valerian supplement. (Here’s a full list from an expert.) Melatonin can be helpful, too. Your body naturally produces it; it doesn’t cause sleep, but rather promotes relaxation. Just 1-3mg, taken about an hour before bed, might do the trick.
- Unplug: Hey! You’re on vacation! Step away from social media and news. Worrying about what’s going on in the world–or with people back home–can be stressful. And that can affect your sleep, too. Skip the urge to keep up with everything and everyone. Stay in the moment, please. Please.
Got any more advice for travelers who struggle with sleep? Share in the comment section!
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