Travel is tough on the body—and amongst all the excitement, proper rest is crucial to keep you healthy on the way to your destination. If you have trouble getting good sleep while on the road, here are some great sleep hacks to use during your travels.
1. Bring Sleep Items from Home
Familiar sleep items, or items that will help you block out extraneous noises or discomforts, can help you feel more comfortable while travelling. These can include:
- Travel pillow and blanket
- Sleep mask
- Headphones (preferably noise-cancelling) for listening to music or blocking out sound or earplugs
- Scented candles or a diffuser (if you’re sleeping in a hotel room) or applying calming essential oils to your neck or pillow
(CCL Sleep is another helpful sleep buddy for travel, providing a blast of natural melatonin in just 30 seconds. It’s a great alternative to pills and is perfect for travel because it works fast and fits easily in a pocket, purse, or travel bag. Order your own here.)
2. Choose a Window Seat
If you’re flying and your airline allows, choose a window seat for during your flight. You’ll be able to lean your pillow against the side of the plane for a better sleep position. And if you can’t get a window seat, a neck pillow can help support your head and neck during slumber.
3. Set Up Your Area for Sleep
Whether you’ve reached your travel destination or are sleeping in-transit, do your best to create a sleep-inducing environment. This can include blocking out as much light as possible, keeping your sleep space cool, hanging up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, creating white noise with a machine or fan, or using any necessary sleep items mentioned in #1.
If you’re willing to spend some extra money, you could upgrade your plane seat for more sleep room or book a stay in an airport hotel for a nap during a long layover.
3. Try to Keep Your Same Schedule
Jet lag is no joke. Whether you’re traveling overseas or simply entering a time zone a few hours difference from your own, the change can interfere with proper rest.
Experts tell us that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is best—and travel days are no exception.
Help yourself adjust to a major time difference by setting up a regular schedule:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time locally that you would at home—even if you have to stay up all day (when it’s nighttime at home) or sleep less the first night to get up early. You’ll feel off at first, but it will ultimately be easier to acclimate your body to the new location and sleep better at the right times.
- Eat meals at the same times you would at home. For example, if you’re used to eating dinner at 6pm your home time, eat dinner at the 6pm time wherever you are. This will get your gut used to the time difference faster (and is just better for your health overall).
- Maintain any bedtime routines you do at home. This could be taking a bath, listening to music, reading a book or magazine, having a light snack, etc. Sticking to what’s familiar will help your body relax and feel more at-home.
4. Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed
You may be tempted to accept that free cup of coffee on the plane or make a Starbucks run while on the road. This can temporarily increase your alertness, but remember that coffee dehydrates you—and dehydration can ultimately make you feel more tired.
Instead, focus on staying well hydrated with plenty of water water-containing foods like apples, grapes, carrots, and other travel-friendly fruits and vegetables.
Also, make movement at least partly a priority during your travels. Find times to move your body during your travel, whether that’s a brisk walk around the area, some yoga in the hotel room, or a weights session at your hotel gym. You’ll feel better and chances are you’ll sleep better when your body gets some extra nutrition and exercise.
5. Use Relaxation Techniques
Wondering what to do when you can’t fall asleep, even if you’ve tried “everything”? Settling down to sleep can be especially hard after a long day of traveling that leaves you restless. This is where mindful relaxation techniques can help:
- Keep the lights dimmed
- Do gentle stretches or yoga poses for sleep
- Play soothing music
- Reading a book you enjoy or journal about your day by lamplight
- Breathe deeply: Inhale slowly through your nose and feel your lungs and belly expand. Pause briefly at the top of the breath, then slowly exhale through your mouth, as if you’re gently blowing out a candle.
Each of these sleep hacks can help your body relax and prepare you for deeper, more restorative rest before and after travelling. Try them next time you’re headed to a new destination!