Recording some quality sleep when you travel can be an enormous undertaking, especially for those who have very little experience with it.
Insomnia while traveling is not limited to your plane, train, ship or even car travel. Although all four modes of transport can make it exceedingly difficult for you to achieve some meaningful shuteye. The real sleep deprivation problems only emerge when you reach your final destination.
Regardless of how you get to your final travel destination, there is always the distinct possibility that your internal body clock will be out of sync with the time zone you enter at your final travel stop.
More often than not, this failure to adjust your internal body clock is associated with plane travel. The experts call that jet lag.
However, that adjustment can be just as difficult to make if and when you are traveling by train, bus or even car. We have already touched on the subject of jet lag in previous articles published on these blog pages.
I will give you a brief recap later in this article.
Quick Article Navigation
How to Sleep Better While Traveling – 8 Top Tips
Sleep and Travel, Insomnia and Lousy Hotel Beds
Former World Number One golfer, Tiger Woods recently negotiated a series of back-related injuries while trying to make his return to the United States PGA Tour. Among other things, his chief complaint centered around the quality of sleep recorded while using the beds at local hotels and lodges.
If somebody with the financial muscle of Woods can experience difficulty with hotel beds – and we are talking about some of the most expensive hotels in the world here – then who are we to even think of securing quality sleep in our more normal hotel and guest lodge beds?
The point here is that insomnia can actually have more to do with hotel beds and the local environment than it has to do with the extent or nature of the travel itself. Alas, it is not the end of the world.
We think there might be several techniques available to help make that hotel stay slightly more bearable and with that, we endeavor to end the scourge that is insomnia while you travel.
Some of the fancier hotels around the world have sleep experts, either serving as consultants or working in-house, who are able to provide some meaningful advice on how to beat insomnia while you travel.
Here are some of what they have to say regarding hotel beds.
1. Accept That Hotel Beds Aren’t Particularly Great
Hotels – and their beds – are generally very well marketed. That’s fair but it is also somewhat misleading.
When we look at images of hotels, we see the pictures of the sheets, we see the picture of pillows, we see the picture of the beautiful blankets and we see the stunning color schemes, along with the opulence that is a common feature of the decor.
We do not blame you for being sold on this hotel dream. You are meant to be played. If you aren’t played then the hotels in question frankly need a better marketing team.
However, you need to do yourself a favor and do some research on the actual hotel beds. It is going to be some hard work but at the very least, try to establish if the mattresses on those beds are actually specially made for the hotel you are visiting. That is what hotels will have you believe but it isn’t often the case, let alone always the case.
You will often find that the hotel mattresses are rather average or generic. At least if you know, you can plan your way around that and establish if there is a way you can get access to a hotel with better quality mattresses.
Also, try to establish if the hotel beds at your venue are really the super-premium products that they claim to be. Again, there is probably not a considerable amount you will be able to do about it but at the very least you should prepare yourself mentally for what you can actually expect when you arrive at your venue.
You see, there is the small matter of insomnia and the deteriorating health that will accompany it on what is supposed to be a special vacation for you and perhaps your loved ones.
There is a distinct possibility that during the course of that trip, you will seek every possible excuse out there to explain why you are struggling to sleep and why your body is unable to cope with the lack of quality sleep being recorded during that period.
If you at least know that it is not so much the jet lag, or the food or the climate, then you are better placed to address any insomnia you encounter while on your travels.
While we are on this thread, it will a great idea to learn how to spot a bad mattress, or even an old and dirty mattress.
A bad mattress will contribute the following:- you are waking up tired, waking up with a sore body, you cannot get comfortable and allergies may be triggered.
A bad mattress will generally be one that is too hard, too soft or way too old.
The easiest way to identify one such as this is by visiting travel websites such as Trip Advisor, Trivago, Booking, etc… You will soon weed out the bad reviews regarding the beds provided at the hotel you will be staying at.
All of which contribute to insomnia while you travel.
2. Look for a Real Custom Experience When You Travel
They often say that the old ways are the best. In the context of modern travel that is probably true. We are going to explore the sports analogy yet again because there is so much that can be learned from that experience.
The best tennis players in the world travel extensively around the planet – not just around a specific continent or a country – during the course of a calendar year.
During that period they travel between the time zones more than most, if not all professional athletes. It is an enormous undertaking and because they have to take jet lag into account more than most, worrying about the quality of their accommodation or beds is something that they need to eliminate from the equation altogether.
One way they work around that complication is by avoiding hotels altogether when they gather for the bigger tournaments of the year.
There are often famous anecdotes on how Rafa Nadal sleeps at the house of Larry Ellison when he competes at Indian Wells. Ellison, a business mogul, is the owner of the Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells.
There are also anecdotes of how whole homes are booked out and rented to players during the two weeks at Wimbledon every year. If tennis players can, they actually avoid the hotel bed when everything is on the line over a period of one or two weeks.
Sometimes it will be in your best interests to adopt the same or a similar philosophy when on your travels. Right, you might not always get a house but strive for a more custom experience if you can.
A cheaper lodge, a room, apartment or home through “Airbnb” or even a bed and breakfast facility can sometimes do more to eliminate your insomnia problems when your travel, than some of the most expensive or opulent hotels.
If you search hard and long enough, you will likely find those places online. It is one of the perks of living and traveling in the modern age.
3. Accept What You Cannot Change but Change What You Can
At times it will make better sense to stay at an expensive hotel, because it is the only accommodation available, for whatever reason.
Maybe it is the closest hotel to where you need to be. Sometimes it is the only hotel where you need to be.
Sometimes you will be traveling in a large group and a hotel is the only venue that can accommodate your group.
Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need to accept that your travel plans are simply that limited and there is nothing you can do about that phase of the planning.
Maybe you know that the beds will be rough and that insomnia might be an issue. When presented with that challenge, there is sometimes a series of adjustments that you could make to the hotel room itself when you arrive at your destination.
One thing you can do, although it is unlikely to change the world, is to travel with your own pillows, also your own bedsheets. There is a slight possibility that this will make your sleep slightly more pleasant. Try to think of other techniques like this which will help your bed feel a little like home.
Ways to Sleep Better While You Travel
Johns Hopkins Medicine is among the leaders when it comes to studying sleep and at the forefront of those studies is a phenomenal woman called Charlene Gamaldo. She specializes in Neurology, Sleep Apnea, Sleep Disorders, Sleep Medicine, Snoring Disorders.
She has also explored at length, the best ways to improve the quality of your sleep when you do decide to travel.
Hers is a holistic approach, which explores the planning phase of a trip, the trip itself and how you are going to manage the transition if and when you arrive at your final destination.
4. Destination Research
Before you embark on your travels I assume that you would have done some meaningful research on where you are going and how many time zones you are likely to skip through. You will also know if you are traveling backward or forward through the timezones.
When you have managed to wrap your head around that detail, you can then start planning accordingly for your trip. That planning will likely start about three days before the trip when you start altering the manner in which you sleep.
In fact, I suggest that you start that mind trickery exactly three days before you plan to travel. The trickery will involve either sleeping an hour earlier or and an hour later, depending on which way you will be traveling through time zones.
On the second day of your self-deception, you will then alter your sleep time by two hours and finally, you will alter your sleep time by three hours on the third day. It is a gradual progression.
The strategy is all about the transition and your goal is to do exactly that before you actually embark on your travels. Manage the transition and teach your body to change.
5. Adapting to New Environment
Having tried valiantly to manage the sleep transition, the next step in your evolution will be to adapt to the new environment when you arrive at your final destination.
You need to find a way to sync up with the local time schedule almost immediately if you can. That includes but is not limited to changing the time on your watch upon arrival.
If you arrive in the morning behave like all the locals would in the morning and for the remainder of the day. Resist the temptation to go straight to bed, regardless of how tired and exhausted, you might feel.
If you sleep during the day, you are guaranteed to encounter a serious bout of insomnia not just on that night but for the remainder of the trip really.
If you know that you will be arriving at your final destination in the morning (which many argue is the best way to actually go about it), then it would be prudent to catch as much shuteye as you can on the plane or even high-speed rail.
Follow these easy steps on your first day to help you get a great first night of sleep at your destination.
- Eat and drink throughout the day at the appropriate meal times.
- Get some vitamin D – walk, shop, climb, swim anything you can think of to stay awake and at the same time enjoy gentle exercise.
- Once again – go light on the heavy meal before bed also watch your alcohol and caffeine intake – these will not help but hinder your sleep.
Whatever the method of transport that you are using.
If you expect to land at your final destination during the evening which is harder to adapt to the destination time zone. You will have to muster all the courage you can and stay awake as much as possible on the way to your trip.
I have actually explored ways in which you can do this, in another article that I have written which you can see here – there are many ideas that will help you to avoid sleep.
If you do manage to pull this off, you are most likely to avoid any troubles you might have had with insomnia while on your travels.
6. Time Your Arrival Time at Your Final Destination
If you are a seasoned traveler you will know that landing at their final destination in the morning or during daylight hours is the best time for your body. It might also be in your best interest to carry a pair of shades with you on the trip and use them on your travels.
The doctors at Johns Hopkins say the goal of this technique is to minimize exposure to sunlight. The logic behind that is to recalibrate your body’s internal clock so that you feel like you are closer to bedtime at your final destination.
In addition to this – and we tapped on this a bit earlier – when in Rome, you should do as the Romans do. That is to say, while you do have your shades on, your endeavor is to adapt to what the locals are doing.
You should try and be active outdoors, have lunch outdoors (if you can afford it) and go for a meaningful walk. Explore the city and whatever you do, do not fall asleep. Another way to trick yourself into adapting will be to actually take a shower when you arrive (as you would when waking up back home).
The go to the gym or just go outside for some meaningful exercise, as you would probably do back home. If that means taking a jog, then so be it.
7. Sleep Supplements
Even after all of those interventions, you might even find that your body hasn’t quite tricked itself in falling asleep when bedtime does arrive. Sometimes, your body will need that extra nudge and there is no harm in taking drugs that will help you get there.
The main one is a melatonin supplement. Some of you might remember that the melatonin levels in your body will naturally arise when the time eventually comes to get some shuteye. That is normally the signal your body needs to know that the time has come to get some rest.
However, because your rhythms are sometimes disturbed while on your travels, you need to give the body somewhat of a nudge to help convince it that the time has come to sleep. Just be mindful not to become too reliant on this drug.
8. Watch What You Eat and Drink
Poor nutrition while traveling can contribute to sleep issues, so making sure you eat in a healthy manner and consume plenty of fluids will go a long way to improving your sleep.
Cut out alcohol and caffeine consumption when you are in transit. I would say, especially the alcohol because it dehydrates you. Both alcohol and caffeine make it exceedingly difficult to recover from the symptoms of jet lag and that will have an adverse impact on your sleep while on your travels.
In addition to this, it will also be prudent to take in as many other fluids as possible while you are in transit. By other fluids, I think water should really be the only option. Avoid everything else if you can especially the drinks that contain extensive amounts of sugar – as sugar will impact your ability to rest and sleep.
Final Thoughts – How to Sleep Better While Traveling – 8 Top Tips
Ah, travel, one of the most exhausting activities we undertake. Often under the guise of “a vacation” more often than not you need a vacation to get over your vacation. If you are on vacation you might be able to grab a nap sometime throughout the day to make up for any lack of sleep throughout the night.
Apply just of a few of the strategies above and get yourself some sleep while traveling – especially if you are on vacation!
Check out my travel-related articles for more ideas to achieve great restful and sleep-filled travel. Jetlag here, sleeping in hotels here and camping trips here. Don’t forget that all-important sleep you need to acquire on an airplane – check that out here.
As always here’s to better sleep!