Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, leaving the comforts of home can often wreak havoc on your sleep. The two most common problems? Sleeping poorly in a strange environment and suffering jet lag from crossing time zones. Here are some suggestions to help ensure a good night’s sleep while traveling.
The Obstacle: A strange environment
Even having reservations at an upscale cabana on the beach doesn’t guarantee your stay will be restful. Variations in your sleep routine, such as sleeping on a different type of bedding than you’re used to or a change in your preferred room temperature can disrupt sleep.
The Fix: To accommodate these disruptions, try taking your own bedding or, if that’s a pain, bring along just your pillowcase or some other small object to conjure the comforts of home.
In terms of temperature, you may not have much control over the thermostat, so make sure that you are comfortable by taking along sleepwear that will keep you cool or warm, depending on the destination and the room temperature to which your body is accustomed.
Also, accessories like an eyemask, earplugs and soothing music downloaded to a portable device can help relax you into a more soothing slumber.
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The Obstacle: Time Zones and Jet Lag
It takes the body approximately one day to adjust for every one to two time zones traveled. So, for example, if you cross three time zones, it can take a day-and-a-half to adjust to the new time zone. This may be insignificant for someone with no set schedule at the new destination, but if you’re traveling for work and need to be in peak form the next day, it can pose a challenge.
The Fix: Planning in advance is the key. Start adjusting to the new time zone a few days before you travel by going to bed and waking at the new destination time. Be aware, though, that while this will help you quickly adjust to the new time zone at your destination, you will still have jet lag when you return unless you make the same adjustments prior to heading home.
Other Obstacles and Fixes
- Avoid red-eye flights. People often think Oh, I’ll ge the red-eye and I’ll sleep in flight, but in reality, these overnight trips make your adjustment to the new time zone more difficult.
- Keep yourself hydrated to reduce jet lag. Many travelers unwisely drink less fluids while traveling to avoid the inconvenience of using public restrooms. In reality, though, jet lag can cause many physical problems such as malaise, headaches and poor concentration. Keeping your body hydrated can help reduce these effects.
- Avoid alcohol. Air travelers often enjoy a cocktail while traveling to either unwind or take the edge off fears of flying. Alcohol, however, can have a dehydrating effect on your body, so it’s best to avoid imbibing both before and during air travel to prevent dehydration.
- Bring the noise. We’ve all had those late-night disturbances while traveling — another hotel guest returning home late, or a crowd of college kids partying in the street below your hotel window. If your sleep is easily disrupted by extraneous sounds, bring along a white noise machine to help drown out the unwelcome sounds.
- Lighten up. If you cross time zones frequently, consider purchasing a light box, such as the kind used for light therapy. This fairly inexpensive device can help promote jetlag recovery.
Traveling can significantly disrupt sleep. But with careful planning, you can minimize the effects and have an enjoyable and productive time away.