You have looked forward to this trip for months. You packed like a pro, the travel to your destination went off without a hitch and everyone loves the accommodations you booked. You are off to the start of the best vacation ever – except there’s one problem. It’s three A.M. and you are still staring at the alarm clock. With a big day planned ahead, you desperately need your sleep, yet here you are – wide awake without a “Z” in sight. It seems you’ve found yourself in the clutches of travel insomnia.
You are not the only one. Travel insomnia actually affects more travelers than you probably realize. The problem is usually short-lived, but it can throw a monkey wrench into your vacation plans. Disruption in sleep patterns, a change in environment, and even physiology can lead to travel insomnia. While there might be certain things about travel that you can’t control, there are some helpful hints that may help you sleep better while you are away from your own comfy bed.
If you are traveling to a different time zone, try this easy trick. Three days before your trip, begin moving your bedtime an hour earlier (or later, depending on your travel) than normal. Add or subtract another hour on the second day and a third hour on the third day. As a rule of thumb, it takes one day per time zone for your body to adjust.
Packing items like sleep masks, earplugs, and a warm blanket are things that can help you block out lights and noises, as well as control the temperature and fight travel insomnia. If you are used to white noise, consider bringing along a sound machine that plays a variety of relaxing white noise options. Of course, don’t forget some comfy pajamas.
You may be on vacation, but knocking back a number of drinks or having extra cups of coffee can definitely throw your body off its normal track. Try to stay within a reasonable limit so that your body can rest when it needs to.
It’s important to eat a balanced diet while traveling and avoid heavy meals. It may be tempting to grab a candy bar and a soda and the airport stand, but it can affect your sleep later on. It’s best to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
Try to stay away from too much screen tie, especially at night. The blue light from phones, laptops, and TV screens can signal the brain to stay away. As a rule of thumb, stay away from the screens an hour or more before you are ready to sleep.
Working on the bed can confuse the brain, associating the bed with other things than going to sleep. If you must work in your hotel room, try working at a chair or desk and leave the bed for sleeping.
Not all hotel rooms are created equal when it comes to noise levels. Some rooms can be quite noisy if they are located near elevators, pools, or public spaces. Always ask for a room away from these areas whenever possible.
If you sleep on the right side of the bed, stay on the right side. If you normally lay down at eleven P.M. stay on that schedule. Everything you do at home, try to recreate when traveling. Of course, this may not always be possible, but the more you stay in your normal routine, the more your body will keep to its normal sleep patterns.
There is enough to think about when traveling, but worrying about getting a good night’s sleep shouldn’t be one of them. Follow the above tips for better sleep, a refreshed body, and a clear mind – so you can enjoy your waking hours that much more.