Bring Your Sleep Routine on the Road
You’ve packed your clothes, your toiletries, your passport — but what about your healthy sleep habits? Your preferred mattress and pillow don’t fit so easily into a suitcase, but there’s still plenty you can do to snooze better when you’re away from home.
It helps to understand why we often sleep poorly when we’re traveling. Sleep researcher Rebecca S. Robbins, who co-wrote Sleep for Success! and helped The Benjamin hotel in New York City create a Rest & Renew program for its guests, points to something called the first-night effect.
“There’s an evolutionary tendency in a new environment to not have a very good sleep,” she says.
Fortunately, there are strategies we can use to combat the first-night effect:
Pack a few items that make you feel relaxed.
For Robbins, those include earplugs and an eye mask. “Photos of loved ones can be really great. Or maybe a warm, cozy scarf that you can use as a blanket,” she adds. Bringing something that makes you feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment will help you rest easier.
Sleep-proof your hotel room.
Make sure the drapes close all the way. Put a towel under the door to keep light out. Request a room that’s away from the elevator and ice machine (which can be noisy) and make sure the thermostat is set to a temperature that’s conducive to sleep.
Don’t let sleeplessness get the best of you.
If you’re having trouble sleeping for more than 15 minutes, don’t just resign yourself to lying there and trying to power through the insomnia. “Tossing and turning in bed is going to essentially make your body look at the bed as a stressful place, and we want to avoid that at all costs,” Robbins says. “Change the environment and come back only when you’re tired.”
Make good choices outside your hotel room.
On the road, the same tips that experts suggest at home also help: exercising outside in the morning, avoiding heavy meals, limiting electronics usage at night, and not indulging in too much alcohol.
Set your time zone early.
If you’re traveling abroad, start moving your bedtime in the direction of your new time zone a few days before leaving. “As soon as you board the plane, adjust your watch to local time and start behaving accordingly,” Robbins suggests.
Take advantage of hotel amenities.
Hotels want you to sleep well, so they may provide amenities such as herbal tea, spa tubs and a pillow menu, so you can choose among foam, feathers and other pillow options.
Your bed at home may be the best, but you can make your bed on the road a close second with the right techniques and extras.
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