Can’t Sleep on Vacay? 17 Tips to Snooze Better When Traveling
In an unfamiliar setting, your ears pick up every noise and you're hyperaware of your surroundings, making it harder than ever to fall asleep. Here's how to drift off faster in a hotel room or plane.
Book the right room
Choose a room on an upper floor, midway down the hallway if you can. That location is your best bet for staying away from noisy areas like vending machines, exits, elevators, pools, and meeting spaces, says Richard Shane, PhD, behavioral sleep specialist for New West Physicians, Colorado, and creator of the Sleep Easily Method. Ask if your room has blackout shades to keep the light out. “Most hotels have them, but they may be just in some rooms and not others, so you want to snatch those,” he says. Check out these tips for a safer, healthier hotel stay.
Resist the temptation to nap
After a long day of sightseeing or meetings, you might crave some midday shuteye. But for some people, snoozing in the afternoon could set you up for a restless night. “Like we build a drive for food, our brain builds up a drive for sleep,” says Debra Kissen, PhD, MHSA, clinical director of Light on Anxiety Treatment Center. “If you’re napping, you will have less of that.” Here are more signs you won't sleep well tonight.
Don't go to bed with a full belly
Planning your final meal right will prime you for a good night’s sleep. Try to eat dinner at least two hours before you go to bed to give your body a chance to digest before you lie down. “If you go to bed with a full stomach, your digestive system is active when you’re trying to get the rest of your body not to be active,” Dr. Shane says. Here are more eating mistakes that ruin sleep.
Go easy on the booze
No need to be a teetotaler on vacation, but you should aware that those extra indulgences could mess with your sleep cycle. Even though you might fall asleep faster after a few drinks, you could end up waking up in the middle of the night. “When alcohol wears off in your system, it proceeds through the liver, and that activates your liver and makes your heart beat faster and wakes you up,” Dr. Shane says. Check out these surprising signs you're binge drinking without realizing it.
Stabilize your schedule
With late nights, early sightseeing, and no work deadlines, travel can often be a time when regular routines go to the wayside. “So much of sleep is getting a good rhythm going, and the fun of vacation is it’s unpredictable,” Dr. Kissen says. While you don’t have to forgo fun for the sake of sleep, she does recommend staying somewhat consistent with your bedtime. If you go to bed at 4 a.m. one night and 8 p.m. the next, your body rhythm will get out of whack.
Set a deadline on screen time
At least half an hour before bedtime, turn off all your devices, which can be a sign of busyness to your brain when you’re trying to relax. Plus, the blue light they give off is harsher than the warm light of a lamp, which stops your body from producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. “Our nervous systems are set to wake up at dawn and fall asleep at dusk,” Dr. Shane says. “At night, when you expose yourself to bright light, either from a device or TV, it tells the brain it’s daytime and shuts off melatonin production.” Here are key times when paper beats digital.
Crank up the AC
Keep your room at a cool temperature, between 65 and 68°F, Dr. Shane recommends. “When we sleep, our body temperature drops a bit,” he says. “Conversely, when we sit in a room and our body temperature drops, it eases us into sleep.” Here are more ways to set up your room to help you sleep.
Enjoy a hot bath
Even if you normally clean off in the morning, switching your schedule to include a nighttime soak or shower could help you drift off quicker. The steamy water tricks your body into feeling its natural nighttime cool-down even before you crawl under the covers. “Your temperature rises in a hot bath because it gets hot in the bath, and then you get out and the rapid cool-down period creates that relaxation response,” Dr. Kissen says. These weighted blankets will relax you into sleep.
Block out the sound
Does a rattling AC or your noisy neighbors keep you up? Pack a pair of silicone earplugs, which are more comfortable than rubber or foam rubber, Dr. Shane says. “Silcone warms with your body temperature and shapes to your ear for the best fit, and it has a high-rated decibel reduction,” he says.
Cover up noises
Beyond dulling the din by blocking your ears, an extra layer of noise could actually protect you from sound. “You don’t want anything that will alert the mind, and any noise will do that,” Dr. Shane says. “White noise is a sort of hissing sound that basically covers up other sounds.” He recommends loading white noise tracks on your phone before your trip.