Sleep and Travel

Summer holidays are the highlight of the year for most of us – whether you are spending a week on the beach or exploring a whole new country. You may find that, as well as exciting new sights and cuisines, your sleep may also be different when you are on holiday. You may sleep differently in an unfamiliar bed in a hotel or when you are spending time in a new time zone.

Sleep in a hotel room

People often report sleeping much better on holiday than they do in their own bedroom at home. As well as being in a relaxing “holiday mindset”, hotel rooms themselves are often carefully designed with a good night’s sleep in mind. Hotel bedrooms tend to have blackout curtains or blinds, which many people do not usually have in their own homes. Light can be disruptive to sleep, so blackout curtains are a fantastic way to keep the bedroom dark during the night and letting you sleep in, even after the sun has long since risen! Also, hotel rooms are minimalistic and clear of clutter, unlike our own bedrooms. Cluttered bedrooms can stop us relaxing into a restful sleep, whilst a clean and clear hotel bedroom will promote a sense of calm and peace.

A clutter free room can do wonders for your sleep

Another reason that sleep is better in a hotel bedroom is because hotels often put a lot of thought and money into purchasing a quality comfortable mattress and supportive pillows. Most hotels also use a topper on mattress for added comfort. To help you get that holiday feel, you can turn your bed not a hotel style bed simply by adding a mattress topper. Further, the And So To Bed Aireloom range from California are designed to be used in hot weather, so they specifically have a cool touch mattress to keep you cool during a heatwave.

Sleep across time zones

If you travel across time zones, then your circadian rhythm will be in the wrong time zone for the country that you are in. That means your body will feel sleepy when it is morning or awake when it is time to sleep. The more time zones that you cross, the worse jet lag will be. Also, jet lag is often worse if you travel east compared to travelling west – that is because it is easier for us to go to bed later than go to bed earlier than we normally do.

To help minimise the jet-lag caused by long distance flights there are a few things you can do: 

  1. Start changing your sleep schedule in advance of the trip. If possible, consider moving your bedtime nearer the destination timezone by 15-30 minutes each night for a few days before your holiday. For example, if you are travelling west (e.g. to America), go to bed 15-30 minutes later than usual and get up 15-30 minutes later than usual, increasing this late bedtime and waking time by 15-30 minutes each day before your holiday for as much as you can – this way they will already be nearer the destination time zone before you even travel. If you are travelling east (e.g. to Asia) then go to bed earlier by 15-30 minutes and wake 15-30 minutes earlier than normal before your holiday, increasing the difference over several days so that you are already going to bed nearer the destination time zone. This is especially helpful for children who may not adjust to a change in the zones as well as an adult.
  2. Get light at the right time. Bright light at midday tells our body that it is the middle of the day and helps us feel sleepy that night. When you arrive, make sure that you get outside for a walk in the sunshine at your new destination to help your body know the new time.
  3. On the plane keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, but avoid alcohol. Alcohol may help you initially fall asleep, but it will disturb your sleep quality and make you wake up.
  4. Eat meals on the plane at the appropriate time for your destination. Eating three regular balanced meals is another way of helping our circadian rhythm know what time it is. Try to eat meals at the right time for your destination and ensure that they include plenty of vegetables and fruit.
  5. Wear comfortable clothes on the flight to help you sleep on the plane. Complementary upgrades are not as common as you might think, so wearing your best clothes in the hope that you get bumped up to first class is unlikely to work! Much better to be comfortable and relaxed on the flight. 

At the end of the day, hope that you enjoy travelling and exploring the world and that these tips help you sleep better whether you are at home or away.

Dr Lindsay Browning is a sleep expert at Trouble Sleeping, author of the self-help sleep book Navigating Sleeplessness and can be found on social media @DrBrowningSleep.

Posted by Dr Lindsay Browning
20th August 2019

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