How To Sleep Better Traveling

Tara Youngblood Jul 26, 2022

Sleep better traveling

You finally dozed off after driving 13 hours straight. You hoped to get some solid sleep before traveling through two states to your destination, and you wanted nothing more all day than to just lie down, stretch your feet, and relax.

Then someone down the hall laughs. The hotel sign outside blinks slightly through a gap in the curtain. The elevator next to your room screeches as it arrives at your floor, and the microwave clock catches your left eye’s attention.

You grab your phone to check the time. You’re up for the rest of the night.

How Travel Can Affect Your Sleep

Traveling can be fun whether you’re driving or flying, on business or with family and friends, or simply getting away from your busy schedule for a while. But staying away from home isn’t always entertainment when it comes to getting quality sleep.

Sleep Disturbances in Hotels

A study conducted with 2504 men and women discovered 95 percent of participants were affected by different sleep disturbances, from noisy hallways to lousy pillows when staying away from home.

Participants reported the following disruptions in order from highest to lowest prevalences when staying in hotels: [1]

  • Poor pillow
  • High temperature
  • Poor mattress
  • Poor duvet/bedding
  • Noise from the street
  • Bad indoor climate
  • Too much light from windows
  • Noise from ventilation
  • Noise from corridor
  • Noise from other rooms
  • Noise from restaurants or pubs
  • Small bed
  • Low temperature
  • Noise from an elevator
  • Noise from lobby

The key to helping travelers sleep better in hotels is – hoteliers – according to one study. While a mint on the pillow is nice to see in the morning, hoteliers should focus on encouraging travelers to realign their circadian rhythm, or internal clock, to the new time zone. This will “enable guests to get a good night’s sleep on the destination’s clock, rather than that of their origination point.” [2]

New Time Zones and Jet Lag

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handles over 16 million flights annually, and nearly 3 million passengers fly daily in and out of the United States. [3] Jet lag, referred to as circadian desynchrony, affects nearly 93 percent of travelers at some point, according to the American Sleep Association (ASA). [4]

“If you have flown from one-time zone to another and not felt your best the following day, there is a good chance that you have experienced jet lag,” ASA’s website says.

Another example is when you step off the plane, and your body may think it’s early evening when, after a long flight from Los Angeles to Boston, it’s actually after midnight.

Airport jet lag

Jet Lag Symptoms

So, how do you know if you have jet lag? What does jet lag even feel like? If you have jet lag, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Disorders of disturbed sleep such as insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach problems
  • Lack of focus
  • Headaches
  • Extreme tiredness during the day
  • Changes in mood
  • Drowsiness

Fortunately, the above symptoms improve steadily as the body gets used to the new time zone.

Causes of Jet Lag

Our circadian rhythm tells us when it’s time to wake up and go to sleep. Flying to a new time zone disrupts that rhythm, and the greater number of time zones traveled may lead to more intense bouts of jet lag.

According to researchers, west-to-east plane travel leads to more serious symptoms of jet lag than going from east to west due to our circadian rhythm. A 2016 study explains that we lose additional time when traveling east over several time zones. [5] When traveling from north to south or vice versa, jet lag is not an issue because there is no crossing of time zones.

Therefore, people experiencing disturbed sleep or tiredness are more likely to have travel fatigue.

Travel Fatigue

Whether you're flying, driving, or taking a train, travel fatigue can occur. Not to be confused with jet lag, travel fatigue is caused by a hectic and demanding schedule, lack of sleep, or the stress of being away from familiar routines.

Sleep Routine Affected

Your hotel room is not your living room, and that airbnb you and your family have obsessed over online for months will not be the same as your house. So, travelers should not depend on accommodations to provide the exact sleep environment they have at home. [6]

Sleep Hours Lost During Travel

Over 1,000 people were surveyed and asked about their experiences sleeping away from home during travel. The survey revealed that cruisers lost nearly two hours of sleep over a 7-day trip, while road-trippers lost three hours of sleep over the seven days. Flyers on the other hand, lost nearly six hours of sleep in one week of traveling. [7]

How to Sleep While Traveling

Waking up completely rested from a good night’s sleep while traveling is most likely all travelers’ goal. However, it’s not always easy to obtain. In an effort to help you receive quality sleep during your travels, we’ve listed some of the best tips to help you sleep more comfortably while traveling.

Deep breathing exercises when traveling

Breathing Exercises

Traveling can be exhausting and stressful. Getting your body and mind ready for sleep with breathing exercises and yoga can help reduce anxiety and stress leading up to sleep. Learn how Yoga Nidra for sleep can help you relax leading up to bedtime.

Below are a few meditation exercises specifically designed to perform before bedtime:

Study: Performing yoga can help with sleep quality,[8] sleep duration, and sleep efficiency.

Listen to Relaxing Music

Music has a strong and mixed effect on the mind and body. Music can slow your breathing, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, ease muscle tension, reduce anxiety and stress, and release hormones.

Sleep Study: Music can improve sleep quality [9], including chronic sleep disorders including insomnia.

Aromatherapy

Packing a full suitcase can sometimes become challenging, but packing aromatherapy when traveling is easy. If you're having difficulty falling asleep quickly, aromatherapy can help with relaxation. Types of aromatherapy include diffusers, clay masks, hot and cold compresses, bathing salts, aromatic sprays or mists, and more.

Give Yourself Time to Fall Asleep

Trying to fall asleep in a new environment can be tough, so give yourself more time to fall asleep, even if it means going to bed a little earlier. If you’re traveling across time zones, it can take about a day to adjust to your new schedule. If possible, try to set your alarm to match the timezone you’re visiting so that you are well adjusted once you’re there.

Relaxing in hotel room

Find a Home Away From Home

If you’re traveling to a location where you’ll have to book a hotel room, consider all of your options before booking. In today’s rapidly-growing, peer-to-peer economy, companies like airbnb and vrbo are starting to take off. With these programs, users are able to book rooms, apartments or entire homes at their travel destination.

Not only will you find a great deal, in addition to avoiding hotel fees and generally higher prices, but you will also be able to feel more “at home” than if you were staying in a hotel room. In addition to following the tips above, this could help you sleep better while you are traveling.

Other Tips to Sleep Better While Traveling

Planning a trip, booking a flight, reserving a room, and organizing your itinerary are important for traveling. So is sleeping. Getting the right amount of quality sleep while you travel is vital for you physically and mentally while away from home.

Before you head out that door, here are a few tips in order for you to sleep well on your trip:

Ensure a Great Hotel Experience

Some hotel pillows will always be too flat, and elevators will most likely screech every time they arrive at a floor, ice makers will hum, outside lights will somehow find a way to shine in your room, and hallways will continue to create some of the loudest noises.

But according to Smarter Travel, you can ensure a great hotel experience even before you arrive at the hotel: [10]

  • Request a room on an upper floor away from the elevators.
  • Book a room midway down the hallway away from ice makers and vending machines.
  • Avoid rooms facing a pool due to loud noises from pool guests and echoes from the water.
  • Research if the hotel will be undergoing renovations.
  • Ask the hotel about pillow options.

Packing for your trip

What to Pack

Here are just a few suggestions to combat the “new sleeping environment blues” when away from home:

  • Cozy pajamas that will help you feel like you’re at home
  • Favorite t-shirt
  • Cozy bathrobe or slippers.
  • Continue with your normal routine: if you typically feel best getting to bed around 10 pm, try your best to stick to that.
  • Pack the right accessories

Pack Your Favorite Pillow

Your sleeping space will most likely be limited to a hotel bed, someone’s couch, or a bed you’re just not used to while traveling. The familiarity of bringing your favorite pillow or travel pillow from home could provide more comfort than you realize.

Sleepme travel kit for better sleep

Sleepme Sleep Kit

You finally doze off after driving 13 hours straight. You’re going to get some serious shuteye before you travel several more hours to your destination, and you want nothing more than to just sleep.

You never heard the laughter coming from the hallway. You blocked out the hotel sign light and the microwave clock, and you never noticed the elevator screeching next to your room.

You wake up rested.

Designed to create a calming space to relax and unwind, our sleepme Sleep Kit will help you sleep deeper and better wherever you are.

Find these sleep tools inside numerous compartments with the sleepme Sleep Kit travel bag:

Blue Light Blocking Glasses

Your grandparents didn’t have to worry about blue light from smartphones before they fell asleep. But with the 2010s being known as “the decade of the smartphone,” research has discovered the light emitted from our phones, tablets, and laptops can cause health problems for your eyes. Blue light can lead to macular degeneration, which bypasses the pupil and cornea, beaming directly into the retina. [11]

Block out 50 to 70% of harmful blue light from your phone, tablet, or laptop before bedtime with our blue light blocking glasses found in the sleepme Sleep Kit.

Blue Light Glasses Benefits

  • Wide format lenses
  • Ridgid lens mounting
  • Comfort curved nose rests
  • Engineering grade injection polymers
  • Multi-barrel hinges
  • Proprietary patented GUNNAR lens material and tint
  • Block 100% UV light
  • Anti-reflective lens coatings on the front and back of the lens
  • Silicone hard-coated lens to prevent scratching

LED Blocking Stickers

Artificial light is pretty much any light that isn’t natural. Light from TVs, alarm clocks, internet modem and router, chargers, and computers is known as artificial light, and it has the potential to keep you up at night. You can spend time blocking artificial light with tape covered with black permanent marker or nail polish. You can also purchase electrical tape, wax paper, and a hole puncher to DIY blackout stickers. [12]

Or you can save a trip to the hardware store and reduce the amount of artificial light from digital clocks, appliances, and more in your sleep space with our LED block stickers.

  • 80 to 100% light blocking
  • 100 plus pre-cut stickers

Sleeping Eye Mask

Sleeping eye masks have been around for over 90 years, and they can eliminate artificial light that can prevent you from falling asleep. Eye masks can come in cloth, gel, weighted, cushioned, and heated. They can also cause wrinkles, under-eye circles, and acne. [13]

Cushion your eyes with our soft and comfortable mask found in our Sleep Kit and eliminate light while you sleep.

  • Padded eye (put pressure on your eyes, it will not pull or damage eyelashes)
  • Blocks 100% of light
  • Machine washable, lay flat to dry

Ear Plugs for Sleeping

You could grab the sides of your pillow and press them up against your ears to block out noise, or you can wear bulky noise-canceling headphones which may cause you to sleep only on your back. Control environmental sleep disturbances with our soft, conforming foam ear plugs.

  • 50 count
  • Disposable
  • Soft foam construction
  • Hollow end
  • Noise Reduction Rating - 32 decibels or greater

Aromatherapy Pillow Spray with Lavender

Lavender is a lighter shade of purple, but it’s also a flowering plant with a sweet floral scent. Lavender, the herb, is known to:

  • Treat skin blemishes
  • Offer a natural remedy for pain
  • Reduce blood pressure and heart rate
  • Relieve asthma symptoms
  • Lessen menopausal hot flashes
  • Combat fungus growth
  • Promote hair growth
  • Help improve sleep

Calm your mind and body with our lavender aromatherapy pillow spray, a natural treatment for insomnia.

Curtain Clips

People often use pant hangers or clothespins to clip curtains together. No need to do that. Our Sleep Kit clips will secure curtains so they can better insulate your sleep space from outside light.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let your sleep suffer while traveling. Enjoy time with your friends, family, or just by yourself and get the quality sleep you need. Quality sleep doesn’t have to stay home while you travel. Take it with you.

Citations

[1] Pallesen, Ståle, et al. ““I Wish I’d Slept Better in That Hotel” – Guests’ Self-Reported Sleep Patterns in Hotels.” Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, vol. 16, no. 3, 20 Aug. 2015, pp. 243–253, 10.1080/15022250.2015.1074938. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

[2] Maas, J. “Beyond the Pillow Mint: How Hotels Can Help with Jet Lag.” The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 3, June 2003, pp. 37–43, 10.1016/s0010-8804(03)90268-0. Accessed 27 Apr. 2019.

[3] Federal Aviation Administration. “Air Traffic by the Numbers.” Faa.gov, 18 Mar. 2022. View Resource

[4] Authors, A. S. A., et al. “Jet Lag Treatment, Recovery and Symptoms.” American Sleep Association. View Resource

[5] Lu, Zhixin, et al. “Resynchronization of Circadian Oscillators and the East-West Asymmetry of Jet-Lag.” Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, vol. 26, no. 9, 2016, p. 094811. View Study

[6] Xiong, Wei, et al. “Effects of Environmental Change on Travelers' Sleep Health: Identifying Risk and Protective Factors.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Media S.A., 13 May 2020. View Study

[7] “Sleep Lost While Traveling (2022): A Study of Americans: Mattress Advisor.” (2022): A Study of Americans | Mattress Advisor. View Resource

[8] Halpern J;Cohen M;Kennedy G;Reece J;Cahan C;Baharav A; “Yoga for Improving Sleep Quality and Quality of Life for Older Adults.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine. View Study

[9] HX;, Wang CF;Sun YL;Zang. “Music Therapy Improves Sleep Quality in Acute and Chronic Sleep Disorders: A Meta-Analysis of 10 Randomized Studies.” International Journal of Nursing Studies, U.S. National Library of Medicine. View Study

[10] Elissa Leibowitz Poma, “33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel.” SmarterTravel, SmarterTravel, 2 Mar. 2020. View Resource

[11] “How Do Smart Phones Damage Your Eyes?” Optimax. View Resource

[12] 4, Jill Nystul · April. “How to Block Those Bright Leds so You Can Actually Sleep.” One Good Thing by Jillee, 17 July 2019. View Resource

[13] Stokes, Victoria. “How to Use a Sleep Mask for Better ZZZ's.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 Feb. 2022. View Resource

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