Prone to unpredictable schedules and inconsistent routines, frequent travelers often find themselves needing to catch up on sleep in unfamiliar and uncomfortable environments — crammed between chatty neighbors in the middle seat of a transAtlantic flight, on a springy mattress of a 10-bed dorm hostel, or on the benches of an airport during your layover. Lack of sleep can throw off even the most well planned itineraries, as you traipse through your destination in a zombie like state and ultimately crash in the middle of the day. Here’s how to get some quality shut eye anywhere, whether you find yourself on a lengthy flight, overnight train, or cross-country bus.
Be Sleep Ready
Create a good sleep environment for yourself by putting together a kit of sleep accessories, so you’re sleep ready no matter your location. If light pollution like the blue of the illuminated airplane cabin or that annoying crack between your curtains in hotel rooms keeps you from going to bed, then bring along an eye mask to help keep the light out. Up your game with a weighted sleep mask, as those help stimulate particular pressure points on the face to provide comfort and relaxation. Equip your kit with a neck pillow for those grueling journeys between destinations, and the cushy padding can provide extra support when your head inevitably bobs from side to side. Find products that are lightweight and pack down easily so you can bring your sleep kit with you wherever.
Stay on Top of Your Noise Game
The noise of your neighbors and high pitched shrieks of their seven children in the hotel can keep you up as easily as the roommate who drunkenly stumbles back into your shared dorm at 3 a.m. If you’re a light sleeper, make sure you toss some ear plugs into your carry on to keep noise to a minimum. Alternatively, download your favorite sleepy time tunes on Spotify to play at bedtime, drown out the noise of city traffic in your hotel room by turning on the bathroom fan, or play soothing background noises on apps like Chroma Doze.
Enter Sleep Mode
As part of a regular bedtime routine, many of us like to pick up our phones and catch up on social media, or fall asleep to a classic late night rerun of Friends. But the blue light from electronics slows the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our natural sleep-wake cycle, and keeps us from feeling sleepy. Though it’s tempting, try not to pick up your phone starting about an hour before you go to bed to get your body into sleep mode. If you can’t help it, then turn your cell phone to ‘night mode’ to cut down on the bright lights for late night browsing. The red tint on the night mode combats the blue wavelengths, making it easier on your eyes in the dark and reducing your exposure to blue light.
Build a Consistent Routine
Though you may be prone to late night bar crawls and early morning sunrise tours when you’re on the road, keeping a consistent sleep schedule can help you better fall asleep in unfamiliar places. Take short 20-minute power naps or call it an early night when you need to, but try to tuck yourself in and wake up at around the same time each day to build a routine so your body can operate normally. The quicker you can adopt a routine in a new time zone, the better you'll sleep. And when you're traveling overnight, pick a few elements of that routine to help you drift to sleep. For example, since most of us make a conscious effort to brush our teeth before bed, consider bringing a travel toothbrush with you on your long haul flight or overnight train journey to help signal your body for bedtime.
Passing out in your sturdy jeans or the clothes you’ve been exploring in all day can leave you tossing and turning as you try to get comfortable. On nights you’re traveling between destinations, get comfy by wearing loose fitting leisurely clothes. Pair your stretchy yoga pants with a fuzzy sweater so you can easily peel off your layers or add to them as you adjust to the aggressively air-conditioned buses and try to fall asleep.
Wiggle Your Toes
If you’re on an extended journey between destinations, free your feet for the sake of comfort and swap your runners or boots for a pair of warm and cozy socks so you can kick up your feet and go to sleep. Though some believe freeing your feet on a flight is controversial because that allows them to swell over the course of the journey, prevent this by giving your feet a gentle massage and by pacing the aisles to promote circulation.
Relax Before Bedtime
Being on the road brings its stresses, as you scramble to make accommodation bookings, finalize tour details, and reserve seats for your next journey. These stressors can negatively impact your sleep quality, so try mentally unwinding by writing down on a notepad the tasks that are plaguing your mind, and tackle them in the morning instead when you're feeling refreshed. Relax your body by indulging in your pre-sleep ritual and do some gentle stretching, 10 minutes of reading, or hop in a quick hot shower to prep it for sleep mode.
Pack the Creature Comforts
Bringing some of your favorite things from home and surrounding yourself with familiar objects makes wherever you are feel more like your own bedroom, allowing you to fall asleep quicker and more comfortably. Pack your favorite pillow case that you can use at your hotel, or bring your favorite sleepy time tea with you so you can cap off each day on your travels the same way you would at home. To take along your favorite scent that’ll help you relax, consider a travel (no flame) candle for your hotel room, or take it in spray or even hand cream form.