Whether you’re in a hotel on vacation or travelling across the country for work, sleeping in an unfamiliar place takes a little getting used to. Many people find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep away from the comfort of their own bed. But certain sleep aids and techniques can help you get needed rest on the road. Here, we have compiled some common reasons travellers suffer from poor sleep and tips from sleep experts for a great night’s sleep.
1. Unfamiliar Sleep Environment, Room Temperature and Lighting
Staying in a hotel or in a plane is never the same as sleeping at home. Even a small sound from the car engine or people around you can keep you wide awake. Temperature, lighting and sound represent the main environmental factors in play on sleep quality, according to a post by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The room or location should be cool (ideally 21°C or 70°F or cooler), the windows should have shades that can block out light and sound should be minimal.
a. Bring your own pillow, sheets, blanket and photos of loved ones.
Ideally, you should bring your own pillow. Bringing along a J-shaped or C-shaped pillow that fits around your neck is also helpful, as it keeps your head from bobbing around or getting a stiff neck. Travel pillows come in many shapes and sizes, but they can be bulky and attention-grabbing or can be stored discretely. The “ostrich” pillow, for example, is a good choice for narcoleptics everywhere.
Try to make the room feel as much like home as possible. Bringing along a favourite photo or reminder of home such as a favourite scent or candle to help make the surroundings more relaxing and familiar. Bath amenities such as lavender aromatherapy, potpourri, soaps, and oils
b. Adjust the setting of the room temperature/ humidity to your level of comfort.
If possible, the room or location should be cool (ideally 21°C or 70°F or cooler). Before hitting the sack, look around the room and make needed adjustments, such as closing the curtains, turning off a dripping faucet, and changing the thermostat, to make your sleep environment as comfortable as possible. Get ready a blanket or cardigan to keep yourself warm or away from direct air currents. Or use an air humidifier like this:
c. Get yourself a good quality eye mask.
A good quality eye mask also helps in ensuring sleep for those who are sensitive to lightings. The animated flash of movie screens, reading lights, cabin lights, sunlight bursting in on an eastbound flight, light from iPads of your neighbours — all can disturb your slumber. Get yourself an eye mask. Some airlines provide them, but it’s best to keep one in your travelling kit just to be safe.
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d. Block out noise or use white noise
Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can shut out outside noise and promote sleep, while allowing you to enjoy any digital content privately. If the environment is noisy, try some relaxing music. Listening to soothing music can help tune out distractions and lull you into a peaceful sleep. For best results, try Bose’s popular noise-cancelling headphones; they’re not the cheapest, but they’re one of the best to escape engine noise and other in-flight distractions. (Ear plugs are a less effective but much cheaper alternative.)
If the unfamiliar sounds of a hotel keep you awake, consider bringing along your device with an app that plays white noise to block out distracting sounds. Commonly used as a sleeping aid, “white noise”, like the sound of nature, can promote deeper sleep.
Long trip away from loved ones makes many travellers miss family and friends, and affect their sleep.
Sleeping Tip: Before going to bed, call a spouse, family member or best friend.
3. Stiffness and Drowsiness from Long Trips
Our bodies can get out of sync from long car rides, which can leave us feeling stiff, sore and groggy. Falling asleep while riding as a passenger in a car can cause travellers to have trouble sleeping at night.
a. Regular breaks
If you are travelling on the road for long hours, take regular breaks to get fresh air and stretch your legs. Avoid sleeping for long periods on a car ride as this can affect your sleep at night. Never drive when you are feeling drowsy. Start the trip well rested.
b. Wear compression socks
These special socks will increase blood flow to your feet, which you will be thankful for when sitting for a long period of time. When flying business class or first class, airlines usually provide these socks for free. But using the wrong size can make the problem worse. So it’s better to bring your own. Look for socks with 15–20 mmHg compression—and be sure they fit correctly.
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c. Nap carefully
Consider a short nap on a short flight and a longer one on a longer flight. On longer flights consider waiting until the latter portion of the flight. So when you wake and feel refreshed just as the flight as about to end. Do not snooze too long unless you have a long flight. Napping more than 30-45 minutes may put you into a deep sleep, making you feel more tired when you wake up.
4. Excessive Alcohol, Caffeine, Nicotine, Heavy meals, Carbonated beverages, Electronics, Dehydration
Many travellers think alcohol will put them to sleep, but it will have the opposite effect.
a. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
They are diuretics, causing you to go to the bathroom frequently. This, along with the dry cabin air (if you are flying), will increase your chances of dehydration.
If you want to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, but as your body clears it from your system, it can also cause symptoms that disturb sleep, like nightmares, sweats, and headache. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed to try to reduce these symptoms.
Caffeine can keep you awake. It can stay in your body longer than you may think — up to 14 hours. Cutting out caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep easier.
Restrict nicotine. Having a smoke before bed — although it feels relaxing — actually puts a stimulant into your bloodstream. The effects of nicotine are similar to those of caffeine. Nicotine can keep you up and awaken you at night; it can stay in your body as long as 14 hours. It should be avoided particularly near bedtime and if you wake up in the middle of the night.
b. Avoiding electronics such as computers and iPads within an hour of bedtime.
These devices emit daylight-spectrum lighting, which makes it difficult for you to fall asleep.
c. Avoid having a large meal before bed, because it can cause indigestion.
Try not to go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy meals before bedtime. Also, try not to drink anything after 8 p.m. These can keep you from getting up to use the bathroom during the night. But there’s nothing wrong with small bedtime snacks if you’re hungry.
In fact, do drink enough water. This will help counter the dehydrating effects of the dry, recycled air. Carbonated beverages may produce excess stomach gas. Dehydration often caused by travellers consciously drinking less to avoid having to get up multiple times during long flights. There is an easy solution. Instead of drinking water, go for sports drinks that replenish electrolytes faster and keep you hydrated with lower volumes of intake. Or, you can buy “hydration packs” to fortify regular water with the same electrolytes.
If you have bedtime rituals at home, such as listening to soft music or sipping a cup of herbal tea, don’t skip them. They will be your body’s cue that it’s time for bed. Spending quiet time can make falling asleep easier. Develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual like reading, light stretching, or taking a hot bath to break the connection between all the day’s stress and bedtime.
Your body needs a full rest every night to function properly and enable you to enjoy your trip. For the best travel health, use these strategies to get the sleep you need and make the most of your time away.