Sleep is so important you guys.
It makes the difference between an enjoyable trip and a frustrating nightmare.
But if you’re like me, then sometimes you find it hard to drift off. Especially when you’re in a new location.
In the hunt for sleep, you have enemies.
You’ve got city sounds, traffic noise, wild animals, and drunken dorm-mates.
You’ve got unfamiliar scents from unfamiliar foods.
You’ve got hard mattresses and weird pillows, mosquito netting and arctic aircon.
You have concerns over money and time and destinations and bookings.
You also got people hooking up in all sorts of places and times – but that’s content enough for a whole other post.
So the question is, how can you get better sleep when travelling?
It’s not always easy. True, there are those of us who can sleep anywhere. I’m exceptionally jealous of those can get a bit of shuteye regardless of surroundings. But that’s just not how it works for everyone.
You need to make way for Morpheus
Check out your digs
First things first, research your accommodations. Take a look at top rated places on Trip Advisor or Hostelworld. For me, anything under 80% is a no-no. Also read the room tips. Your fellow travellers often leave advice on the best rooms to stay in, or which ones to avoid.
Alternatively, if your trip is unplanned, check out your rooms. Inspect the room, the mattress, the aircon/fan, the mosquito netting, and even the noise levels before laying down your hard-earned cash.
Get your body ready
Make sure you are actually ready to sleep.
Avoid caffeine after 4pm (local time), for obvious reasons – it tells your body that it doesn’t need sleep. It often lies.
Steer clear of protein-heavy meals before you hit the hay. That means no massive burgers, cheesy pizzas or creamy pastas. Your stomach can keep you awake as it sets about digesting such a heavy load.
The same goes with alcohol – only replace “protein” with “ethanol” and “stomach” with “liver”.
And try to keep spicy foods to a minimum – chilli and spices can stimulate the metabolism at a time when you want it to start slowing down.
You might also consider taking a shower before hitting the mattress, or washing your face. Splashing cold water on your face activates the dive reflex, which slows your heart rate, making it easier to drift off.
Sometimes the place your staying is just too stimulating. Think dorms alongside a busy road, or bungalows beside a farm.
Or there are times when we’re too sensitive. Sometimes people just can’t deal with going to sleep around light, or certain sounds are just too penetrating.
Either way, you just need to block out the world. That’s why I’ve invested in ear plugs and a sleep mask. This way, dorm-mates can come and go as they please (phrasing) and I will know nothing of it.
I also carry a small microfibre blanket. It’s great for trains, planes, buses, airports. Anywhere that the aircon gets arctic. It’s also useful in dorm when you need some space. Just hang it from the bunk above and BAM – you have a home-made privacy screen.
It never helps me to be told to calm down or relax. I know I need to stress less. So when it comes to sleep, there are several steps I take.
These include getting a massage, practicing meditation, and getting my affairs in order.
The massage helps clear some of the crappy toxins from my body, and loosens tough muscles that can cramp my sleeping style.
The meditation helps keep my head clear whiled rifting off (no thank you, brain, I want to remember 8th grade AT ALL)
And of course there’s very little that robs be of sleep as much as having things left undone. Especially with work and money. So I spend maybe 30 minutes a week going through my living costs, upcoming expenditures, and project invoices. By keeping on top of my projects, spending and bills, I can sleep better.
This is a big no-no!
It’s always tempting to lie in and have lazy days.Hit snooze, roll over, skip breakfast. And also possibly lunch.
But this sets up a pattern. Your body starts to get used to over- and under-sleeping. Not only is this pattern hard to break, it also interrupts your ability to think clearly. Why? Because your brain is either flush with “wake up” chemicals, or drowsing in soporifics.
Even if you’re travelling slow, this makes it ridiculously hard to make (or keep) plans with any sort of reliability. The result? You end up wasting time.
Instead, take a nap.
If you’re feeling tired, just put your head down for a short rest. A nanna nap. Even just 20 minutes of shuteye does wonders.
Also, if taking naps, it’s a good idea to keep them under a multiple of 1.5 hours. This time matches up with your circadian rhythm. So you get a touch of light sleep – but any more and you run the risk of entering a deep sleep phase. And if you wake up in the middle of that, well, you ‘re gonna fee like death for another 30 minutes.
Better sleep = better travel.
By eating good stuff, shutting out the bad stuff and keeping a clear head, I’m able to get my zzz’s. And high quality sleep means I’m able to enjoy myself more.