Even the soundest of sleepers can run into occasional insomnia when traveling, especially those traveling on business. The anticipation of new work and “marathon meetings,” coupled with an unfamiliar scene, can ruin sleep for business travelers, especially. Click here for more information on choosing the right business hotel.
Lack of sleep can ruin a perfect vacation day with lingering fatigue or could drastically impact an important business deal if you are feeling off your game. Sadly, studies show that bulk of the blame belongs to science. Sometime in the mid-to- late teens, our sleep begins to wane, leaving babies, kids, and grandparents with the lion’s share of the Zs. And science continues to gang up on us if we venture out of our routine.
In 2016, Forbes reported on the “first night effect;” the phenomenon of not sleeping well the first night in a new place is due to one half of the brain staying in a semi-alert state. Since we no longer have to worry about saber toothed tigers devouring us in our sleep, that alert system might do us more harm than good. Although hotel sleep is reported to improve on subsequent nights, why not take advantage of the following sleep tips below to help make your hotel stay more restful and leave you ready to face the day?
Perhaps the best thing you can do to ensure a good night’s sleep in a hotel is to plan for it when you book your room. Like real estate, location matters if you want a quiet night’s sleep. Choosing a hotel off the main boulevard can make for a more restful night.
Once inside, consider selecting a room on a higher floor and midway down a hallway, to avoid elevators, vending and ice machines, or utility closets. If the hotel has a pool, consider choosing a room that doesn’t face the open courtyard where sound echoes. The same goes for banquet rooms, bars, or other public spaces—ask to be placed away from the common areas for a more serene sleep.
If you are a very sensitive sleeper, go the extra mile and ask if your room is away from the back alley dumpsters or recycling bins. And, it never hurts to ask if the hotel is expecting to be under construction during your stay. When it comes to air quality, always be sure to make your smoking preferences known upfront. Last, but not least, if you are planning an extended stay, why not consider using one hotel as a home base?
Moving around can be exciting, but the chance that you might suffer through another bout of “first night effect” might not be worth the comfort and weekly rates your current hotel might be offering.
There’s no place like “home”
Although most travelers eventually look forward to returning home to their own beds, there’s no reason you can’t take a little bit of home with you on your vacation or business trip. For some, packing their own pillow or pillowcase, complete with the scents of home, can be enough to soothe them off to sleep. Other suggestions include favorite pajamas, slippers, and robe—anything that feels and smells like home. Choosing a similarly sized bed can also make the hotel accommodations feel more familiar.
Many travelers take along a loved one’s photo, be it a partner or a pet, to help make the surroundings more welcoming. Try to keep your bedtime routine as close to home as possible-especially if you are traveling with children. If time zones allow, consider a goodnight call to your romantic partner or family.
Environment matters, and when it comes to temperature and lighting, the best choice is what feels most comfortable. Adjust your thermostat and fan accordingly, and bring along a nightlight if you prefer a beacon in the dark. Don’t forget to hang your “do not disturb” sign on the outside doorknob to avoid interruptions.
Selecting Sleep Mode
Setting the stage for sleep is always a good idea—especially for the 50% of adults that suffer from occasional insomnia, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Start early in the evening by choosing a lighter meal at dinner time. Begin a bedtime ritual in the room by taking a relaxing bath or hot shower before bed.
Multiple studies show that people sleep better in a cool, dark, and quiet room, so setting the thermostat and donning a pair of earplugs and a sleep mask can do wonders to offset unfamiliar light and sound. For some, packing a travel-size can of their favorite air-freshener can help “trick” the senses with a breath of home.
If you are into technology, there are a variety of sleep-inducing apps available for smart phones, and even portable white noise machines. In a pinch, the bathroom fan can be left on with the door shut to function as a failsafe back-up plan. As with sleep at home, it comes better when we silence our cell phone notifications and turn the ringer off. If you are worried about missing your alarm, you can always ask for a back-up wake-up call to ensure you don’t sleep too long, once you finally doze off.
Sometimes despite our best efforts, insomnia can hit when we’re on the road. Just like the advice you get at home, stay out of the bed except for sleep and sex. If you find yourself lying awake, get up and move to a chair or table to read until you feel more tired.
Although it’s tempting, abstain from alcohol—you may fall asleep faster, but your overall quality of sleep will suffer. Instead, remember to pack along some chamomile tea or other decaf tea and heat some water in a coffee pot or microwave. You can also check out your options for relaxation apps for your phone before you travel.
Deep breathing and guided meditation can also help the body relax enough to drift off to sleep. Although it’s tempting to try different sleep aids, such as melatonin to battle jet lag or over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids, be sure to check in with your health care provider before trying something new on a trip—especially if you are taking other prescription medication.
Lastly, if your lack of sleep is stemming from some external noise in your hotel, don’t ever hesitate to call to report the noise or to ask to move rooms. Hotel staff is there and happy to help to ensure you have a pleasant—and restful stay.