The Sleep Expert’s Handbook to Quality Zzzs While Traveling

The magic of travel can’t be overstated. Exploring far-flung destinations, historic landmarks, vast landscapes, and bustling city centers reliably sets our hearts ablaze. And while the pros of an adventure outweigh any potential cons, there’s one consistent issue that presents itself every time we travel: sleep. 

From cramped plane journeys to inconsistent meal times, travel can wreak havoc on your sleep hygiene, which is why we tapped experts for their advice on how to get some quality Zzzs while on-the-go. 

Meet the Experts

Teresa Power DeNike

Sleep Coach and Founder of Sleep Better NY

Kelly Murray

Pediatric & Adult Sleep Consultant and Founder of Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting

“Sleep can be poor while on a trip because of what’s known as the first-night effect,” Murray says, noting that because our surroundings are different, the body and brain are on edge. “The body goes into protective mode so that if there’s danger, you’re able to wake up quickly and protect yourself.” To help soothe your mind and steer your body away from this, continue below for seven easy tips to ensure a good night’s rest on your next great getaway.

Consider the Five Senses

When traveling, a good night’s sleep is achievable if you take into consideration the five senses. “For smell, try bringing a candle you typically burn at home, or try diffusing essential oils,’ Murray says. “For sight, I recommend wearing a sleep mask to block out any light or visual stimulation.” (She suggests Mavogel‘s for its softness and hidden wire for a customized fit.) “For touch, if you have room in your suitcase or if you’re driving, bring your favorite pillow or even a blanket.” For taste, it’s all about preparation. “Be sure to pack food items you may not be able to get easily on-the-go, such as MUD/WTR (if you drink it as a coffee alternative in the mornings like I do), or any herbal teas you like to drink before bed.” And lastly, for hearing, remember to bring earplugs to block out external noises. “I recommend buying foam earplugs, which are typically more comfortable.”

Room Location Matters

“Ask for a room farther from the elevator,” DeNike says. “You’ll get  a few extra steps in, and you’ll be away from the noise of the doors and guests.” 

Get Your Blood Pumping

We know—easier said than done, but sticking to some sort of fitness regimen while traveling will not only help you stay on track with your wellness goals, but also help you get some shut eye. “Exercise is so important when it comes to sleep because it helps your body to clear cortisol,” Murray says.

Stick to Your Routine

“Be consistent with your bedtime rituals, no matter how simple or complex,” DeNike says. “Do your skincare in the same order as you do when you’re home. If you meditate or read or lay out your clothes, do the same thing in your room to signal to your mind that it’s time for sleep.”

Rethink Your Beverages

Indulging in an extra glass of wine on vacation is no cause for concern, but be mindful that increased alcohol intake will affect your ability to sleep deeply. “Alcohol inhibits REM sleep, preventing valuable cognitive repair from taking place,” Murray says, adding that it dehydrates your body and, in turn, sends it into a state of cortisol production. “Alcohol also spikes your adenosine levels, making you feel really sleepy at first, but then rebounds as the levels bottom out, causing you to feel wide awake.” 

Create a Traveling Sanctuary 

“Be prepared to make the environment a sleep sanctuary with items like ear plugs and a silky eye mask,” DeNike says, who also uses light-blocking stickers to cover pesky electronic lights. “These simple items put your mind at ease that your room is set up for sleep, being as dark and distraction-free as possible.” 

Stay Hydrated

If you’re touring a city all day, hopping in and out of museums and around parks and gardens, it’s easy to get behind on drinking water—try not to. “Drinking enough water throughout the day prevents dehydration, which can lead to sleepless nights,” Murray says. “Stay refreshed and set yourself up for sleep success.”

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