A recent global study commissioned by IHG found that 80% of travelers say they have trouble sleeping when away from home, with the biggest causes being the different environment and unfamiliar noises.
“It’s no secret that travelling can be challenging for our health, particularly when it comes to maintaining our normal sleep patterns. Light is the major environmental time cue that resets the circadian clock in our brains each day, which is easily thrown off when travelling.”Dr. Steven W. Lockley, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Since feeling well rested can improve any trip, and feeling tired is sure to make things more difficult, it’s important to get a good night’s sleep when you travel. So how can you improve your chances of getting those all important dream-filled hours? Here are 10 tips that can help you catch a few extra zzz’s:
Adjust Your Bedtime – If you’re traveling across timezones, you should start altering your bedtime a few days before you leave to adjust your body to its new location. It takes about a day per timezone to adjust, so move your bedtime an hour earlier (or later, depending on direction of travel) three days before you’re set to depart, and then another hour the next evening, and then a third hour on the night before you leave.
Sync With The Locals – When you arrive at a new destination, you want to sync with the local schedule. If you get there in the middle of the day, you’ll want to stay awake until the locals would normally go to sleep. If you arrive around nighttime, avoid the temptation to stay out late that first night, and try to get some sleep earlier in the evening so you can get back in sync.
Watch The Sun – If you’re traveling east, make sure to bring along a pair of sunglasses so that you can reduce your early morning light exposure. Heading west? You want to get extra light exposure in the early evening, so plan an outdoor activity like a walk or al fresco dining.
Stay Facing West – One way to control your sun exposure is to request a hotel room that faces west, since that will prevent the early morning sun from blasting into your window and waking you up prematurely.
Get Help From Your Hotel – Another hotel option is to call ahead and let them know that you have trouble sleeping, and request a quieter room. That can often help you avoid low-level rooms or high-traffic areas that are going to have increased noise and make it harder to stay asleep.
BYO Pillow Case – The goal is to make your sleep area as familiar as possible, and since smell is one of the biggest sources of comfort, you can bring along your own pillow case that smells like home to help remind your mind and body that when you lay down in bed and put your head on your pillow, it’s time to sleep.
Keep It Cool – An hour or two before bedtime, turn your hotel thermostat down a few degrees into the 66-68 range, which is the optimal zone for a good night’s sleep.
Make Friends With Melatonin – When you’re on a regular sleep schedule, your body releases a hormone called melatonin about two hours before bedtime that signals it’s time to get sleepy. If traveling has knocked your body’s clock out of whack, you can take melatonin as a sleep aid to help get those signals back in sync, like these 5mg Solimo Melatonin Gummies. David Hamer, director of the Travel Clinic at Boston Medical Center, recommends that you start with a low dose of .5 milligrams at bedtime, advises against more than 5 milligrams per night, and says to use melatonin only for the first few days of your trip while your body is adjusting.
Sleep Sounds For Sound Sleep – When you travel, new locations can be filled with new sounds that can keep you up at night, or worse, wake you up when you’ve finally managed to drift off. To help mask those sounds, you can use an app with different white noise sleep sounds to help you fall asleep, like rain, waterfalls, laundry machines, and cicadas that are available in the Rain Rain Sleep Sounds app for iOS and Android.
Start Your Engines – If you’re feeling a bit groggy that first morning, take a warm shower and then head outside and try to get some exercise. Increasing your body temperature is a trigger that tells your circadian rhythm that it’s time to get going, so it’ll help clear the cobwebs.
Lastly, it’s important to practice many of these techniques before you leave, like cooling down your bedroom or sleeping with a white noise machine, so that your body associates them with getting a good night’s rest. Traveling is going to break a lot of your natural routines already, so don’t make things even more complicated by trying out something new the day you arrive at your destination. With a little practice and preparation though, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time, regardless of your location.