Traveling, whether it is by air or car (or even by sea) is a fact of life for many of us at least a few times a year and more frequently for business travelers. It doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping at the home of family, friends or in a hotel or on a plane, the bed and the surroundings are going to be unfamiliar. What follows is a number of suggestions to help you get a great night’s sleep while traveling, no matter where you are or what bed you’re in.
If you’re staying in a hotel, check out photos of the guest rooms online before you leave. Sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp pages can let you know if there is construction in and around the hotel as well as its proximity to busy streets or the airport. If so, ask to be booked in a room furthest from the action that optimizes quiet.
First rule of getting a good night’s sleep is in packing the right essentials such as a sleep mask, ear plugs, and a travel pillow made of cooling fabric. This will come in handy at the airport, on the plane or in the car on long drives, and in the unfamiliar bed awaiting you at the point of destination.
You should also consider white noise or familiar/soothing sounds if ear plugs aren’t’ your thing. There are plenty of smartphone or tablet apps available that provide white noise, soothing sounds and music if that works for you. Some hotels even provide white noise machines to guests that ask.
When you reach that unfamiliar bed, you have to have a pre-bed routine. It may differ from the one that you have at home in several respects, but the objective is the same—a better night’s sleep.
Stop working or using electronics about an hour before bed to clear your mind of work and distraction. You can bring your favorite movies or episodes of your favorite TV shows to watch in the time before powering down if that is part of your nightly routine at home. Afterwards, take a warm shower and keep the room cool.
You may or may not have room for your favorite pillow from home in your travel luggage, but bring it if it is possible and you think it will help. Little reminders of home like pillows (or pillow cases), throws, and even sheets can make it easier to sleep while traveling. Smells are an important part of a good sleep routine so consider bringing airport-friendly powders or solids (like candles) with scents that are soothing to you or remind you of home.
Early to bed is always a good rule when traveling, especially on the first night. Stretching exercises or even an early evening workout if that is what you do at home can all help to prepare your body for sleep. Make sure that you do it early and not overdo it.
Definitely have your evening meal well before going to bed (although a light snack is okay). Hot tea or a cup of milk works for some people. And the number one rule is to not work in bed as that is for sleeping. It’s always good to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but depending on your bladder habits, trail off closer to bed time.
While all of these suggestions are compatible for CPAP therapy users, we could do several posts on traveling and sleep for those aspects just by themselves. What is important for all travelers is that sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings requires some forethought and planning. If you do that and use the suggestions that work best for you, you’re more likely to sleep better and wake up refreshed and able to engage the new day.