Sleeping Well When You’re Traveling

Sleep is vital for your best performance, especially when you are on a business trip.  Here are some tips for a relaxed and successful journey.

Sleeping while travelingBefore you get on the plane

  • Do you get up a lot on long flights? If yes, book an aisle seat.  If not, book a window seat, which will give you the choice of leaning your pillow up to the side.
  • If you’re traveling for business, try to schedule your meetings at your normal work time in your home time zone.
  • Stress is an enemy of sleep. In the days leading up to your trip, make sure everything related to your trip is organized.
  • Expect delays on your trip; don’t let unplanned events that you can’t control stress you out.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before travel.
  • Take a walk around the terminal before boarding. Exercise will help you relax on the plane.
  • Eat a full meal, preferably about an hour before you plan to sleep.
  • A sleeping pill may help if your trip is over 8 hours. Consult your doctor first.  If it is a shorter trip, a sleeping pill will make it extremely hard to wake up.
Sleeping while traveling

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On the plane

  • Adjust your watch to your destination time zone, if you haven’t already.
  • Bring a cooling travel pillow and a sleep mask.
  • Dress in layers of comfortable clothing so you can adjust to temperature changes. Don’t worry about being glamorous on the plane, unless you’re on your honeymoon.  Wearing your sweatpants will be relaxing and restful.  You can change into your fancy clothes just before landing and walk off the plane without crinkles.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Take your shoes off and put on thick, cozy socks.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Keep your seat belt on whenever you are in your seat. Not only is this safer, but the flight attendants will have no reason to wake you.
  • Drink water, but not so much that you need to use the restroom continually.
  • Avoid caffeine both on the flight and on the day of the flight. Caffeine will stay in your system for a few hours, and this will impair your ability to sleep.
  • Minimize or preferably avoid alcohol. At high altitude, alcohol will affect you about twice as much as it does in the pub.  It will dehydrate you much faster, and this will affect your ability to sleep.
  • Close the window shade if possible.
  • Unless you are on a long flight, don’t sleep for more than about 30 minutes. This will cause you to go into a deep sleep and you will be tired and groggy when you wake up.

Jet lag

When the change to or from daylight savings is about a week away, I start moving my sleep times by about 15 minutes per day, so it’s not such a big shock on the day.  The same principle applies with jet lag.  It’s all a matter of habit and what your body is expecting.

If you’re traveling east, gradually move your sleep time earlier.  If you’re traveling west, slowly move your sleep time to later.  If it’s practical, it’s even a good idea to start living in your destination time zone a few days before flying.

If you have a choice, arrange to arrive at your destination in the early evening.  Then stay up until what your normal sleep time would be at home.

When you arrive at your destination, expose yourself to daylight as much as possible in the first few days.  This will help reset your internal sleep clock.

Staying in a hotel

  • When making your booking, ask for a room that is not near the elevator or overlooking a busy street.
  • Try to make the hotel room feel as much like home as you can. Bring a family photo, your favorite socks, your pillowcase or whatever will make you feel more at home.
  • Exercise at your regular time.
  • Don’t eat too much rich food or lots of alcohol.
  • Don’t have alcohol just before bed. It may help you fall asleep, but it will work against your staying asleep.  Try warm milk, cocoa or herbal tea, such as chamomile.Sleeping while traveling
  • Follow your normal bedtime rituals.
  • Go to bed at the same time that you would at home.
  • Use your sleep mask and earplugs.
  • Keep the room cool and dark. The ideal temperature for sleep is 65 degrees
  • Put your phone away or dim the brightness down.
  • Make sure the clock alarm hasn’t been set by the previous occupant.
  • Set a wake-up call with the hotel front desk. It’s easier to relax if you know that there is no way you can sleep in.
  • Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there and worry about it. Get up and walk around, but leave the lights low.  Do some light stretching or something to take your mind off it, such as reading.

Lack of sleep and jet lag can ruin a business trip or spoil the first few days of a vacation.  Plan ahead and you can arrive relaxed and ready for anything.

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