Not sleeping well is annoying and can have a lot of negative effects on our overall health. Most of the time, minor sleep issues can be solved with a little trial and error. Maybe it takes finding the perfect mattress, white noise machine, or humidifier.
That’s great, except traveling can disrupt our sleeping habits in a major way. Whether it’s because of jet lag, an uncomfortable bed, or a total mystery, feeling tired on vacation or on a business trip sucks.
I have a few tips that can sometimes help me sleep better on trips — I hope some of these will work for you!
Stick to your routine
If you’re trying to jump into the local timezone or stick to the healthy sleep habits you maintain at home, try your hardest to keep that going, no matter where you are.
If you have a bedtime routine, try to recreate it. If you’re fighting jet lag, try tricking your body into shifting your routine. It’s not always possible, but if you can, try to eat at the same time as you usually do at home so your body can get into the rhythm. For example, if you often eat dinner at 7 PM, eat at 7 PM in the local time zone so your body knows it’s evening.
This also means listening to your body and sticking to what works for you. If you know caffeine is a bad idea 2-3 hours before bed, don’t do it. If you know eating too much dairy before bed will keep you up at night, avoid it.
Bottom line, don’t throw all your hard-won knowledge and habits out the window because you’re on holiday.
Everybody is different, but I love a calming yoga or pilates session in the evening. While cardio energizes me for the day, gentle stretching and slow focused movements help clear my head and let go of the day.
My pilates instructor also showed me a trick that supposedly helps you sleep. About 10 minutes before bed, lay on your back with your legs up, like you’re walking on the ceiling. You can rest your legs on a wall or on your headboard. I’m not sure why, but this pose is supposed to help you fall asleep faster. Worth a shot if you’re already staring blankly at the ceiling.
I’m definitely guilty of this. I’m always near a screen and come up with excuses to pull my laptop into bed with me. The problem is my laptop or phone offer way too much stimulus and one thing leads to another and I’m deep into 2013 on some Instagram account. Sometimes I use the down time before bed as an opportunity to plan my next day, looking up restaurants and mapping out itineraries. Unless this is a way for you to relieve anxiety (perhaps related to all the unknowns of the next day), I suggest not getting into planning mode at bedtime.
If you are addicted to screens, use the night shift tool for iPhone to dim the screen as the evening progresses so your eyes have a bit of respite. The f.lux app will do the same thing for your laptop screen. It makes the colour of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
If you can spare the room, a little bottle of essential oil can go a long way. Take two drops of a lavender blend or something else you find soothing and rub it on your temples and neck. Or, put two drops into your hands, rub together and cup over your nose. Inhale and exhale deeply. Spritzing a little room spray, perfume, or deodorizer on your pillow can also have a similar effect, as long as you enjoy the smell.
Bring your own gear
I’ve never gotten to this point yet, but you can bring your own sheets and pillow with you if those are items that make or break your night. Earplugs and eye masks can both help too. Travel sheets are usually sold as sleeping bag liners, catering to backpackers, hikers, and germaphobes. If that’s you, it’s something worth investigating.
Don’t let anybody tell you you’re high maintenance when it comes to the quality of your sleep!