Getting a good night's sleep while traveling can be harder than you think. Travelers often deal with unusual sounds, battle jet lag, and try to get comfortable in a new bed. Whether you're traveling on business or for fun, staying at a hotel or with a friend, these tips will help you get a good night's rest while traveling away from home.
Native Americans believe in a sleep talisman called a dream catcher, a spider-like web stretched over a hoop and adorned with feathers and beads. To protect those who sleep beneath it, a dream catcher should be hung where the first rays of morning light will shine on it. Good dreams are captured in the dream catcher and gently slide down the feathers to the person sleeping below. Bad dreams are caught up in the spider-like net and destroyed by the light of day.
But what if you have a hard time falling asleep? And you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep while traveling and away from the comfort and familiarity of home?
What is it about travel that makes a good night’s sleep difficult? Is it anticipation? Adjusting to a new time zone? A brain that won’t shut off? The simple fact that you are sleeping somewhere different? Whether traveling for work or for fun, sleeping in a hotel or at a friend’s house, getting a good night’s sleep while traveling can be tough!
Building on techniques I’ve learned over the years to manage regular bouts of insomnia at home, these tips can help ensure a good night’s sleep while traveling. And like a dream catcher’s web, you’ll find that these components are all woven together.
Get Ready for a Good Night's Sleep While Traveling
1. Fit in Exercise
Regular exercise has been linked to a better night’s sleep. So don’t let a day sitting on your butt in meetings or traveling on a plane keep you from getting some exercise. Being away from home, especially in a new place, might reduce your typical workout motivation, so find inspiration with these “no excuses” workout strategies.
Fit in exercise on the road by exploring a nearby trail, swimming laps in the hotel pool, walking around the airport, or engaging in some other form of exercise at least a few hours before bed.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water is always a good idea. And when you travel, it’s a really, REALLY good idea. Water helps regulate your body temperature, digest your food, and keep your body in tip-top shape for whatever germs it may be exposed to in a new environment. Staying well hydrated throughout the day will help keep drowsiness at bay, and a tall cool drink of water before bed can contribute to a good night’s sleep.
If you’re traveling to a location that is at a higher altitude, you’ll need to drink twice as much water as you do at home to help fight altitude sickness. Get answers to all of your embarrassing altitude sickness questions in this related article.
Sage Advice: Are you trying to be mindful of single-use plastics while staying hydrated? Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it with filtered water from the hotel’s workout room (instead of purchasing bottled water).
3. Mind Your Ps and Qs
Or, in other words, limit caffeine and alcohol when trying to get a good night’s sleep while traveling.
Like the sun rising in the east, you can count on me to have several piping hot cups of coffee first thing every morning. But as the sun hangs directly overhead signaling midday, it’s best to say no to caffeine.
And like the sun setting in the west, you can count on me to have a glass of red wine in the evening. While it’s tempting to have an extra drink or two when dining with colleagues or traveling with friends, beer, wine, and cocktails can contribute to a restless night.
4. Watch What (and When) You Eat
Just like you can count on a Zinfandel to perfectly pair with smoky, saucy Kansas City barbeque, eating an entire platter of brisket too close to bedtime guarantees a poor night’s sleep. Most restaurant meals in the United States are portioned to reasonably serve two people, so don’t feel like you need to clean your plate. Otherwise, you may spend your night tossing and turning while your body works hard to digest a heavy meal instead of relaxing and restoring.
Related Article: 8 Tips to for Healthy Eating While on the Road
In order to get a good night’s sleep while traveling, try to eat dinner two to three hours before bedtime. This will give your body enough time to digest the meal. Plus also, pair sleep tip #1, #2, and #3 together by eating dinner at 6:00 pm with one glass of wine and several glasses of water. Then explore your surroundings or hit the hotel gym and then settle into your room for the night.
5. Is it Hot in Here? Or Is It Just Me?
When you return to your room for the night, you may be sweating from a workout or chilled from the night air. Resist the temptation to adjust the thermostat in your room to compensate for your current state. Instead, adjust your clothing by donning lightweight pajamas or adding a light sweater.
Because sleep studies show that the ideal temperature for a good night’s sleep is between 68-72 F (20-22 C), find a way to get comfortable in that zone as you are getting ready to sleep.
6. Turn Off Technology
Without the responsibilities of home — helping kids with homework, cleaning up the kitchen, folding a load of laundry — it’s easy to get absorbed in another activity. Whether you’re committed to cleaning out your overflowing email inbox, editing a mess of photos from a day of sightseeing, or binge-watching the latest season of your favorite Netflix series, be sure to shut down technology at least an hour before bedtime.
From mobile phones to tablets to laptop computers, our favorite devices can stimulate our minds and prevent us from winding down. So turning them off helps signal to our bodies that we are getting ready to sleep.
Get Set for a Good Night's Sleep While Traveling
7. Power Down Your Brain
While there’s plenty to ponder anywhere in the world, sometimes there is an added level of thoughtfulness, stress, or worry that goes with being on the road:
- Did I add shipping costs to slide #2 of tomorrow’s presentation?
- What if it rains on our walking tour?
- Or worse, what if it snows?
- I hope Louise doesn’t forget to take her social studies assignment to school…
Tell the voices in your head to take a chill pill by stretching, striking a few yoga poses, or practicing deep breathing techniques to help your brain know that it’s time to get ready for bed.
One of my favorite brain shushing tactics is the legs-up-the-wall yoga pose. I’m no yogi, but you basically lie on your back, put your legs up the wall, and breathe deeply for about ten minutes. Or you can read detailed instructions from the experts at Yoga Journal.
8. Read a Book
Decades before people could fall asleep in front of the Late Show or the Extra Late Show and years before people could sit in bed scrolling through news feeds or watching cat videos on their phones, they read a book before bed. And this was with good reason. A 2009 research study completed at the University of Sussex discovered that reading before bed for as little as six minutes can relieve stress more quickly and effectively than any other technique.
Just try to read a real book printed on real paper rather than a chapter of your digital book or a blog post on your phone when you’re getting ready for bed. (Unless you’re reading the latest article published at Everyday Wanderer. Then that’s totally a brilliant idea!)
9. Sip a Cup of Herbal Tea
While the study mentioned in sleep tip #8 revealed that reading a book is the most effective way to unwind before bed, a hot cup of tea also delivered positive results. The way I look at it, drink a cup of tea while reading for a one-two punch against a restless night. Because the tea packets in hotel rooms are usually provided as a coffee alternative and contain caffeine, pack a few bags of your favorite herbal tea to take with you.
10. Add White Noise
Along with tip #13, a little white noise can go a long way toward getting a good night’s sleep while traveling. To create a constant, soothing hum, let the bathroom fan run all night or flip the room’s heating and cooling fan from auto to on. You can also download a white noise app on your phone like White Noise that includes more than 40 sounds for your sleeping pleasure.
11. Breathe in Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is the queen of all essential oils. I’m convinced that just one drop of lavender essential oil can both disinfect germs and heal wounds in real time. When it comes to sleep, lavender is just as effective.
To use lavender oil as a sleep aid, add a few drops to your pillow when you’re getting ready for bed. Or you can put one drop in each palm, cup your hands before your face, and breathe in the floral goodness for a few minutes. Lastly, massage lavender essential oil into your wrists, temples, or feet just before bedtime for a good night’s sleep while traveling.
Related Article: The Best Essential Oils for Travel
And Snooze! Zzzzzzz...
12. Munch Some Melatonin or Pop a Tart Cherry
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to help control your circadian rhythm. Take a melatonin tablet before settling down for a good night’s sleep while traveling or consider a plant-based option in the form of tart cherry.
Tart cherry supplements are a concentrated form of sour cherries and are available in either liquid or powered form. In addition to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, tart cherries are one of the only foods that contain melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to help control your circadian rhythm. And the naturally-occurring antioxidant found in tart cherries can supplement the melatonin produced by your body for a good night’s sleep while traveling.
13. Wear Ear Plugs
There’s nothing like the ding of the elevator, footsteps in the hall, or the television blaring in the next room to keep you from a restful slumber as you try to sleep away from home. They are portable and inexpensive, so always have a pair of ear plugs on hand for a good night’s sleep while traveling.
14. Don a Sleep Mask
One of the most effective ways to encourage your body to create melatonin is to plunge it into total darkness. While you cannot control a street light outside your window or ensure that your hotel has blackout curtains, you can don a sleep mask.
How to Sleep Well While Traveling
Whether your next trip is for business or pleasure, embrace these 14 tips for a good night’s sleep while traveling. You will be relaxed, asleep, and catching dreams (with or without a dream catcher) in no time!
Ready to Go?
Use These Helpful Links to Book Your Trip!
- Find low fares with airfarewatchdog and Skyscanner
- Book your plane ticket with Expedia or Kayak
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- From hotels to private homes, find the perfect accommodation with Hotels.com or Vrbo
- Travel in style with a suitcase, carry-on, backpack, or handbag from eBags
- Save on tickets to attractions, sightseeing tours, and more with CityPASS, Tiqets, and Viator
- Don’t leave home without travel insurance from AXA
- Discover the sights, history, and culture of your destination with an interactive scavenger hunt
- Need something else to plan your perfect trip? Visit my travel resources page for more trusted partners. Happy wandering!