Sleeping when traveling

What an amazing two weeks! Music festivals, travel (always travel), spending time with friends….busy but wonderful. There was so much going on there was barely time to sleep! And we all know that sleep is critical to being able to function at our fullest capacity. This is even more true when traveling, but when you’re not in your own bed sleep can be hard to come by. Whether it’s the ridiculously loud heating unit in your room, or the constant chime of the elevator, that last cup of coffee rolling through your system, or even tomorrow’s presentation running endlessly through your mind—there are tons of obstacles to sleep on the road. Here are a few tips from the experts at webmd.com (with a little input from me).

Some background:

  • Losing as little as 90 minutes of sleep in one night can reduce your alertness the next day by one-third
  • In a study done by Alertness Solutions, business travelers rated themselves as performing at a much higher level than they actually did (20%!!)
  • Study participants had lost a cumulative total of eight hours of sleep by the end of their trip, the equivalent of one full night’s sleep

Tips for a better night’s sleep on the road

  •  Get a good night’s sleep the night before you leave. In the Alertness Solutions study, participants got less than five hours of sleep the night before travel. They are starting out their trip almost half a night’s sleep in the hole! I have been guilty of this, and will do better.
  • Try to stay in a hotel that has excellent mattresses and bedding.  My favorites are Hampton Inn, Marriott, and some Embassy Suites.
  • Cut out caffeine four to six hours before bed
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. You might think that a glass of wine before bed will help you relax into sleep, but after it clears your system you may experience headaches, sweats, or nightmares that could wake you and disturb your sleep.
  • Relax before bedtime. Develop a routine that works for you that will de-stress you before bed. Some light stretching, restorative yoga, a hot bath, reading, a cup of hot (decaf!) tea….I have downloaded the “Meditation Now 2” app for my iPhone and do a 10 minute meditation before bed when traveling. It soothes me, and before I know it I am drifting off.
  • Exercise at the right time for you. People who exercise when traveling sleep better. I know it’s hard to fit in between meetings and dinners, but even twenty minutes will make a difference. I try to do an abbreviated yoga routine that takes about thirty minutes every day when I’m traveling (http://ys.austinwebsiteservice.com/sequences/happiness.html).
  • Don’t eat heavily right before bed, but don’t go to bed hungry. This is the hardest one for me. Because I am at meetings and trainings all day, I have to go to the hotel after work to check my email. I often don’t get to dinner until after 8, then by the time I get back to the hotel it’s almost 10. I am trying to do better! Going to bed with a very full stomach is very uncomfortable.
  • If it is noise keeping you up, try downloading a white noise track to your computer or iPod. I have a great one that has helped me many times over the years.
  • Some people have suggested taking a Tylenol PM or some other night-time medicine. If this works for you, have at it. I have to be really careful about this because I often have crazy dreams that make me feel like I haven’t slept, and then I wake up feeling really draggy when I take Tylenol PM. So for me it is the absolute last resort.

The most important thing to remember is that sleep affects your performance, your mood, your attitude, and your happiness! It can be the difference between having a great, productive trip that you feel good about, or a mediocre trip that you kind of feel was a waste of time. So take these tips to heart, make sleep a priority, and sweet dreams!

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