Getting a good night’s rest is important to your health and well-being. It’s also critical when you’re traveling.
Studies have shown that 50-70 million Americans have some form of sleep disorder. Traveling can make things worse, so it’s good to know some useful facts about quality sleeping and traveling.
Set a Sleep Schedule
Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help you align your body’s 24-hour cycles of wakefulness and sleep. This helps you get the most rest possible each night, so that you feel recharged and refreshed the next day.
There are a few ways to do this. One is to set a specific bedtime and wake up time for yourself each day.
This will eventually become a routine and your body will be accustomed to going to bed at the same time each evening and waking up at the same time each morning.
Once your schedule is set, don’t be afraid to vary it just a little bit, if necessary, for example if you have to get up early for work or for a family event. But it’s important to stick with it most of the time, as straying from your sleep schedule can lead to serious health issues.
Having a healthy sleep schedule is also key for maintaining good mental health, so if you find that you’re constantly feeling tired or irritable during the day, it could be time to look at your sleep habits.
Bring Your Own Comfort Items
Bringing your own comfort items is a great way to prepare your brain for sleep, even if you aren’t able to have the same bedtime routine that you do at home. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling to a place that feels and smells different from your home.
If you normally change into pajamas before bed, bring a pair of slippers with you to wear on your flight. Changing into these comfortable shoes will help your body feel more at ease and get you in the mood for sleep.
One of the biggest challenges of traveling is overcoming jet lag, which can disrupt your sleep cycle. Taking melatonin supplements and getting light exposure can help with this, but it’s important to have the right schedule in place.
Using your own blankets is also a great way to comfort yourself on long flights. These will be a more sanitary option than the blankets that airlines provide and they can give you a sense of familiarity when you’re away from home.
Invest in Noise-Canceling Headphones
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, noise-canceling headphones can help you get a good night’s sleep. They’re finely tuned to detect low-frequency sounds like airplane engines and air conditioners, reducing them to a comfortable level.
Noise-canceling headphones also reduce loud snoring, making it easier to sleep with a partner. And, since they can reduce incoming sounds by up to 45 decibels, they’re an absolute game changer for long-haul flights.
Headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) use a combination of microphones and mini-computers to listen to background sounds, and then “cancel” them out before they can reach your ears. You’ll find this technology on many top-of-the-line models from Bose and Jabra, but you’ll need to pay a bit more for them.
However, it’s important to note that these headphones can sometimes cause “eardrum suck,” which is a sensation where the pressure in your eardrum feels like it’s being squeezed by the headphones. So, if you have any problems with them, it’s best to talk to your doctor about whether or not you should wear them while sleeping.
Make Sure You Have Comfortable Bedding and Pillows
Whether you’re planning an exotic getaway or a weekend road trip, a few well-chosen pieces of bedding can go a long way towards enhancing your travel experience.
Be sure to pick out the best bed sheets, pillowcases, and a matching duvet cover. They should be made of materials that are soft, breathable, and durable enough to handle the rigors of frequent use. You can also opt for a plush mattress topper. A high-quality duvet is a must, and you’ll want to snag one that boasts a quality filling such as Egyptian cotton, merino wool or down.
The aforementioned duvet should be accompanied by a matching down-filled blanket and a set of high-quality pillows that fit atop it.
You’ll also want to consider the quality of the pillow-fill material and whether or not it’s machine washable. The best pillows are the softest, and should be replaced annually or more frequently as they wear down over time.
Using the right bed accoutrements and a little know-how can help you sleep like a champion. The following tips will ensure you and your partner get the snoozes you deserve.
Get Light Exposure When You Can
Getting exposure to sunlight is a great way to strengthen your circadian rhythm and promote sleep health. Sunlight is a natural cue to the brain that it’s time to get ready for bed and helps your body naturally produce melatonin, which is crucial for sleep regulation.
For example, getting outside in the morning for 15 minutes can help you fall asleep faster and sleep longer at night. It also promotes cognitive function and healthy weight.
If you can’t get outside, try using a light box or other bright artificial lighting. These devices, typically used for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), are often helpful for those who travel and work in dark rooms or who suffer from a lack of natural light.
Getting light exposure when traveling is one of the best ways to prevent jet lag, which is caused by changing your body’s internal clock and can be hard to adjust to. If you’re traveling eastward, aim for light exposure in the morning to help your body adapt to the new time zone, while if you’re traveling west, seek out light later in the day to facilitate your transition.
Respect the Time Difference
Keep an eye out for the time changes when you’re traveling so you know what time it is at home as well as when you’re away. Then, use that knowledge to your advantage by staying on top of the schedules of everyone in your travel party and adjusting accordingly.
While you’re at it, make sure you also get the recommended amount of exercise and eat plenty of fruit and veg. This can help you maintain a healthy weight, which will ultimately improve your overall health and productivity.
The best part is you’ll feel a lot more energized and refreshed when you finally get back to your normal routine. The best way to do that is to have a solid bedtime and wake up routine that works for you, your family and your work schedule.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Drinking alcohol while traveling can have negative consequences both short and long-term. It can have a direct impact on your sleep cycle and lead to physical harm, including a hangover or alcohol poisoning.
The best way to avoid these problems is to stay away from alcohol and caffeine when you are traveling. These substances have a number of negative effects on your body that can make you sluggish, irritable and unfocused.
In particular, alcohol and caffeine can mess with your normal sleep cycle and increase your risk of a number of health problems like heart disease, depression, stroke and even death.
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases blood pressure and heart rate, while alcohol can affect your central nervous system by slowing down reaction times and causing drowsiness. This can also trigger parasomnias, which are sleep disorders that interfere with normal sleep patterns, such as nightmares or daytime drowsiness.
It is safe to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, but consuming too much can cause serious health issues. This includes muscle tremors, headaches, anxiety and insomnia.
Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep Aids
Jet lag can be difficult to overcome, especially when you travel long-distance. But a doctor can help you understand your situation and give recommendations for both medical and non-medical options.
If you are having trouble sleeping, ask your doctor about sleep aids, which can include over-the-counter and prescription drugs. These medications are typically safe to take short-term, but they can have side effects.
Over-the-counter sleep aids, which are usually composed of antihistamines, can be effective for occasional sleep problems. But they can also lead to drug tolerance and dependence, which means you need more of them to get the same drowsy effect.
Prescription sleep aids are safer than over-the-counter versions because they require a doctor’s prescription, which ensures the right dosage and potency. But they can have a number of side effects, including allergic reactions and abnormal behavior after taking them.
You may be able to find sleep aids that are safe and effective without a prescription, such as melatonin supplements or other natural substances. However, they don’t have the same level of FDA approval as prescription drugs, so it’s important to speak with a doctor about their use.
Traveling often can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it difficult to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern. However, prioritizing sleep, controlling light and sound exposure, managing stress levels, avoiding caffeine and alcohol late in the day, scheduling naps on long journeys, and being mindful of changing time zones can help you develop better sleep habits when traveling. With these tips, you can ensure that your sleep cycle remains healthy even when jet-setting around the world.