For many of us, sleep and travel don’t go hand-in-hand. Hectic schedules, stressful deadlines, eating poorly, and staying up late prevent us from getting the rest we need. Veteran road warriors, however, know that these are poor excuses — and they have a few tricks up their sleeves for catching some z’s.
Planning ahead makes it easier to sleep well the night before you travel. This means making sure everything’s in order: Your luggage is packed, your presentations are ready, your flight and hotel reservations are confirmed. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll just add stress to the experience. Exercise, eat healthfully, and drink lots of water the day before you travel.
Whether or not you’re the type of person who can doze off on a plane, you can make the flight experience more restful [PDF]. Pack a C-shaped pillow to cradle your head and neck while seated. Take your shoes off (or at least loosen the laces) to keep your circulation moving. Close the window shade. Put on your eye mask. On longer flights, take a nap later rather than sooner, so you can wake up refreshed as the plane nears arrival. Avoid dozing longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time, which could send you into a deep sleep and make you feel more tired when you wake up.
In addition, try to avoid flying when you’re congested or have a serious ear or sinus infection. If you must travel anyway, carefully clear your ears by exhaling with your nose and mouth closed. Chewing gum can help equalize your ear pressure, particularly during descent and landing, when pressure problems are often most acute.
At the Hotel
Book a room as far away from elevators, stairways, ice and vending machines, bars, restaurants, and meeting areas as possible. Some hotels offer “quiet rooms” that are located off the street and feature double-paned windows and silent air-conditioners.
Other sleep-enhancing amenities to look/ask for:
- Blackout curtains
- A firm but comfortable mattress
- Different types of pillows
- A room with eastern or southern exposure (more morning sun when you open the curtains can make you feel more alert)
- A reliable alarm clock (remember to reset it to reflect your schedule).
Another sleep trick: Use a lavender oil or linen spray on your sheets. Lavender is said to increase the amount of time you spend in the restful sleep stage.
It may not be easy, but unplug at the end of the day. Don’t check emails or read texts. Stay off social media sites (they’ll still be there in the morning). The goal is to wind down your body and mind, so sleep comes quickly and naturally. Remember that the loss of even an hour of sleep at night can markedly reduce your alertness the next day. Everyone is more productive when they’ve slept well — and there’s no reason you can’t get adequate sleep, even when you’re away from home.