The act of travel is peppered with endless sleep-inhibiting obstacles whether it’s unfamiliar surroundings, a raucous hostel dorm or pothole-ridden night bus journey. 50% of adults consider a good night’s sleep to be essential for their mental wellbeing according to the 2019 Global Sleep Survey. Did you know that appeasing our circadian rhythms when on the road could be the key to a more enjoyable trip?
Giving the recent facts, we’ve searched some expert advice to hut out the distractions of a new environment and power down for a restorative night.
Get accustomed to unfamiliar surroundings
Have you ever heard of the “first night effect”? It’s that weird feeling you get when you arrive fresh off the plane somewhere, full of enthusiasm and anticipation, and then… you just can’t seem to switch off. Sleep-hindering factors like noises, sounds and smells that you’ve learnt to filter out at home are now front-and-centre of your brain that makes disconnecting even more difficult to power down as you normally would.
But there is a secret to solving this problem: filter out as many unusual stimuli as possible and create yourself a mini sleep-haven that mimics your nighttime conditions at home
Dr Johan Newell, MD specialising in sleep disorders at Brussels’ Brugmann University advises ‘Bringing along your own pillow is really worth considering,’. Having the familiar feel, texture and smell of your own pillow can trick your brain into thinking you’re not in unusual surroundings at all if you can squeeze it into your luggage.
The obvious solution for noise is earplugs. Try a few different types before you travel, as preferences vary from person to person. If you don’t like using earplugs, try a white noise app. Start listening to it while you get ready for bed. You’ll begin filtering out any other intrusive sounds, ready to focus solely on your personal soundtrack when it’s time to finally sleep.
Noise is not the only sleep-distraction. Excessive light could bother you too. Try to block it as much as you can. Use both blinds and curtains. Cover any electronics emitting light (e.g. routers, LCD displays) as best you can. You could wear an eye mask for full light protection.
Use your bed only for sleep. Don’t work in bed, don’t watch movies before sleeping as your brain won’t register it as a place of restorative rest.
Tips to have a good hotel sleep
Hostels are noisy. Fact. It’s possible that the sleep deficit a shared room could cause you might outweigh the money it saves if your rest is affected by noise.
Dr Newell affirms: ‘the older you get, the more likely it will be that an unfamiliar and noisy sleep environment might affect your sleep pattern.’ There are plenty of ways you can minimize the effect of – let’s face it – other people’s annoying habits if you do choose to stay in shared accommodation.
Our advice is to search for accommodation situated in ‘quiet’, ‘secluded’ and ‘sleepy’ neighborhoods, and steer clear of anything described as a ‘party hostel’. If you have a choice of beds when you check-in, pick the one furthest from the door.
In our next article, you will find tips on how to sleep in airplanes, bus stations and other means or transportation.