Nothing messes up your sleep schedule more than travelling. The National Sleep Foundation found that of 1,004 adults polled, more would rather sleep in their own bedroom than a quality hotel room. It could be your custom bedding, or the comfortable dent you made in your air mattress, but often the best sleep happens in your own room.
There are two things to consider about sleeping while travelling: sleeping en route and sleeping well once you've arrived. Different tactics must be applied to either situation for optimal sleep.
Advice for Sleeping on a Plane, Bus, or in a Car
Depending on the length and time of the flight or drive, you might be disrupting your usual sleep routine. Any number of factors can affect how well you sleep, so it's important to come prepared in order to increase your sleeping ability while travelling.
- Darkness is essential for quality sleep. Investing in a sleep mask can make or break the flight or drive for you. Most flights and buses will turn down the lights for overnighters, but that won't ensure complete darkness. Of course, there has to be some light for the flight attendants to walk around. The passenger next to you might be watching a video or playing a game on their iPad. A sleep mask is great tool for blocking out the light. Most sleep masks are under ten dollars, making them an inexpensive sleep aid.
- Some people are used to sleeping with earplugs to block out a snoring spouse. Blocking out the noise of the crying child on a plane or people shuffling around on the bus is just as important. If you've forgotten your earplugs, pop in your earbuds and try to listen to some soothing music instead.
- Depending on your location, you might not have the comfort of a window seat. This can put a serious cramp in your attempts to sleep and in your neck. Try to bring along a travel pillow to boost the comfort level of your trip. If you don't have a neck pillow, you can adapt with a smaller travel pillow. If you're traveling in your car, be sure to keep a pillow and blanket in the trunk. If you're traveling solo, you can pull over and sleep for a bit to fight off drowsiness.
Arriving at your Destination
Even when you get to the hotel or your distant relative's house, it can still be difficult to sleep. There are a few ways to help make the transition a little easier.
- Staying at a Hotel: If you plan on sleeping in, ask for a room facing away from the morning sun. Even if you have curtains, this fully prevents the sun from waking you up before you've fully rested.
- If you need to wake up at a certain time, set an alarm and a backup. Being in a new location makes it harder to trust you'll wake up on time. This can disrupt the sleep you're trying to get because you're worried you might sleep through your alarm. Setting two alarms can give you peace of mind, helping you to stay asleep during the night.
- For those who have traveled all day, doing some stretches before bed can help you to sleep better. As tempting as it is, try not to watch TV or anything with a backlight before going to sleep. Doing this can disrupt your body's cycle of slowing down for the day.
- Staying with Family: Of course it depends where your family puts you up. You might be lucky and get the guest bedroom, but not everybody has these accommodations. For those sleeping on the couch or an air mattress, here are some tips.
- If you know you will be crashing on the couch, try to get earplugs and a sleep mask ahead of time. It's probable you'll be in more of a central location (e.g. living room), and these two things can make all the difference in the world.
- Not every air mattress is built the same, and how well you sleep depends on the quality of the air mattress your host provides. One way to bump up the comfort of any air mattress is to place a thick blanket between you and the air mattress. This serves two purposes - it keeps you warmer and provides extra padding. Another hint is to use all the regular bedding you would on a normal air mattress. Air mattresses are built to handle standard sheets. Bedding can go a long way to help you sleep better and feel more at home.
No matter the sleeping situation you're put in, recognize there are preparations and steps you can take to sleep better. Coming prepared can make all the difference between no sleep and feeling refreshed the next day.