Clinical Editor: Megan Dodson, PA-C
It’s no secret that getting good sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. But getting solid shuteye can take a backseat during your travels. Whether it’s a redeye flight, crazy jet lag, or difficulty sleeping in a new bed, our circadian rhythms can take a serious hit when traveling , impacting our overall well being.
It’s true that getting good sleep away from the comfort of your own bed can be tricky, but there are ways to plan ahead, accommodate, manage, and turn things around. If you’re gearing up for summer travel, here are some tips for maintaining good sleep hygiene and getting a full night’s rest on the go.
1. Choose sleep-friendly accommodations
Perhaps this is a familiar scenario: you research hotels online and discover a jewel that’s well under budget, and you think you’ve found the steal of a century… only to show up and hear construction noise or excessive road noise when you get there. Or maybe the walls are paper-thin, and you can hear every conversation your neighbors are having.
Maybe you get there and the beds feel like beach chairs, and you just can’t get comfortable. Not every accommodation is optimized for getting solid shuteye when you’re traveling. Whenever you’re able, look for accommodations that offer tranquility (ie, good sound insulation), comfortable beds, and appropriate room temperature for sleeping. If you can call ahead to inquire about blackout curtains or noise machine options, that’s even better.
Pre-planning sleep-friendly accommodations includes carefully evaluating (and planning around) any travel partners as well. If you’re splitting a room with someone who snores, try to devise a plan ahead of time on how to mitigate their snoring (this is something they may want to look into for health reasons regardless), cancel the noise for you (headphones, ear plugs, noise machine), or find different arrangements altogether.
2. Bring sleep essentials
Some of those aforementioned tools are helpful to ensure sound sleep, even if no one nearby is snoring. And they don’t have to take up a ton of space in your luggage. A white noise app on your phone, a silk pillowcase folded up into a tiny square, and some soft squishy ear plugs could all fit into a pocket. If you’re sensitive to light, an over-the-eyes sleep mask may be beneficial.You might also consider packing some sleepytime tea,, and even a sleep journal. Sleep supplements like melatonin or magnesium can be helpful for some people, but we recommend checking with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
3. Strategize your sleep schedule
Ahead of time, try gradually adjusting your sleep schedule, especially if you’re going on a long flight and enduring significant time zone changes. You can start this a few weeks in advance; the key is to be diligent and consistent as you move your sleep and wake times either earlier or later, depending on the direction you’re traveling.
Whenever possible, try to stay awake until it’s bedtime in your new time zone, and wake up as close to your targeted wake up time as possible to get sunlight and immediately begin your adjustment.
Staying in the same time zone? Or just moving an hour over? Stick to a regular sleep schedule, maintaining consistent bedtimes and wake-up times — and continue this even while you’re traveling.
4. Sunlight exposure
Jet lag or not, getting natural sunlight exposure first thing in the morning — and often during the day — can help to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Our circadian rhythm naturally relies on the light/dark cycle of the sun, so using this to your advantage can be helpful while traveling. Your body is most sensitive to light within an hour of waking up, so try to get out and seize the day each morning! Get out of the hotel — or at the very least, to the window or balcony.
5. Prioritize winding down
While traveling, it can be tempting to stay out late, cramming in as many activities as possible. But if sleep is a concern (and a priority) it’s essential to carve out time for your body to wind down.
This can look like a few things, including some relaxing activities before bed, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath, and having a screen time cut off, so you limit exposure to electronic devices and blue light in the evening. Similarly to that first morning hour of light sensitivity, your body is also sensitive to light two hours before bed, so try to dim things down leading up to bedtime.
6. Watch your caffeine and alcohol Intake
A morning espresso can help you recalibrate to a new time zone, but it’s best to avoid stimulating beverages like coffee or energy drinks close to bedtime. Give yourself a 12pm cutoff in your current (travel) time zone. Similarly, be mindful of alcohol consumption, as it can also disrupt sleep quality. Try to limit your drinking before bedtime, as it can lead to poor sleep quality, and you’ll wake up feeling groggy and decidedly not refreshed.
7. Get moving
Whether you’re traveling or not, exercise during the day can promote better sleep at night. You then get all the other myriad benefits of physical activity, and better sleep quality… even longer sleep hours! Workouts could even help counteract the negative effects of sleep loss from your travels. Didn’t sleep on the plane? Get out for a long walk once you land, or book yourself a workout class.
Making sleep as much of a priority as sightseeing and dining out can set you up for a much more enjoyable and restful vacation. This increases the odds that your time away from home and work will be more rejuvenating, and better for your health, too.
Have more questions about sleep and your health? Our primary care team is here to assist you! At One Medical, we aim to provide exceptional care designed around you and your unique health needs. Sign up today to book a same or next day appointment-in person or over video-through our app.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.
Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.