Travel is a source of great pleasure for many people. Others do it as a matter of course. No matter why you’re traveling, getting enough sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being.
Traveling can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, despite the necessity of rest. Many factors might contribute to a lack of quality rest while traveling, but there are steps you can do to ensure a better night’s sleep while in transit and throughout your vacation.
How Can Travel Disrupt Your Sleep?
Travel has the ability to open up a world of new and fascinating experiences, but it may also have unintended consequences. It’s common for people to have trouble sleeping while traveling, which makes it more difficult to take pleasure in their surroundings.
Traveling can be stressful on the body and mind, which can contribute to exhaustion. Travel tiredness is characterized by exhaustion, headaches, sleep deprivation, and other symptoms.
Travel exhaustion can be caused by a variety of factors:
- a phobia of flying or other forms of transportation
- The fear of encountering difficulties while on vacation.
- Anxiety is caused by practicalities such as packing and making it to the destination on time.
- Getting motion ill.
- Travel days that are long.
- Trip cancellations, delays, or rescheduling.
- Lack of sleep during travel, such as in a plane, train, or automobile while sitting upright.
- Dehydration, constipation, bloating, and respiratory tract infections are all possible side effects of air travel in a pressurized airline cabin.
- Increased use of alcohol and caffeine when in transit, as well as altered food and drink consumption.
- Leg edema, stiffness, and decreased physical activity might result from prolonged sitting.
Many types and lengths of travel can cause travel fatigue, which can exacerbate preexisting health issues such as depression and anxiety.
If you fly across three or more time zones, you may suffer from jet lag, a temporary sleep problem. The circadian rhythm of a traveler is still set to their home time zone when they arrive, causing them to be out of sync with the time zone of their final destination.
One of the most common symptoms of jet lag is difficulty sleeping. Impaired physical or mental function, excessive daily tiredness, digestive issues, and a general feeling of ill health are all possible signs.
A person’s circadian rhythm may take up to several weeks to adjust to the local time zone after experiencing jet lag. When flying east and crossing many time zones, the effects of jet lag can be more acute.
Changing one’s daily routine, especially when one goes to bed, can lead to sleep issues even if they don’t suffer from jet lag-induced disruptions to their circadian rhythm. When an asleep habit is disrupted, it may be more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night.
When on vacation or on a work trip, it’s usual for people to try to cram as much into each day as possible. Overstimulation or a lack of sleep time are also possible outcomes.
New or Uncomfortable Sleep Settings
A number of studies have shown that people sleep less well the first night they spend in a strange place. Sleep clinics were the first place to uncover a consistent “first-night impact.”
Sleep clinics don’t appear to be the only place where this impact occurs. Even in a relaxing environment like a spa resort, the quality of first-night sleep was found to be diminished, according to additional studies. To keep the brain busy while sleeping in different locations, some researchers believe this is an evolutionary survival mechanism.
When traveling, sleep may not always improve after the first night, but this is not always the case. There may be difficulties getting a good night’s sleep if your lodgings have a bad mattress or too much light or noise.
Changes to Diet and Exercise Routines
People often look forward to getting away from their typical routines when they travel, but the disruption of sleep that comes with this might be caused by a shift in sleeping habits.
Travelers may be tempted to consume more alcohol or eat heavier meals than they normally would, all of which might adversely affect their sleep habits. When you’re on the road, it’s possible to lessen or modify your regular workout routine, which can help you sleep better.
What Are the Consequences of Disrupted Travel During Sleep?
Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to have negative effects on the body, mind, and emotions. The effects of sleep deprivation include sluggishness and irritation throughout the daytime, as well as a decrease in energy. Inadequate sleep can increase the chance of an accident, which can be particularly concerning when traveling by car.
These repercussions diminish the value of memorable journeys. While business travelers and athletes may suffer, vacationers may have a less enjoyable time if they don’t get enough shut-eye.
People who travel frequently or are predisposed to sleep disorders may experience chronic sleep disturbances even if they only have a short-term effect.
Many families choose to travel during the summer months. Travel demand in the United States is soaring as COVID restrictions are eased around the country, bringing it back to pre-pandemic levels. As a result, two-thirds of American adults are now ready to return to their daily routine, and 62 percent are ready to take a vacation, according to a new survey. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the U.S. tourism industry lost $645 billion.
Thousands of airline workers were laid off as a result of the pandemic, making airports feel more chaotic than usual. In addition, flights are being delayed or canceled due to wildfires in the West and bad weather in other parts of the country.
Traveling on vacation with little children can be extremely stressful. To make your trip less stressful, consider using any of the suggestions listed below.
Combating Vacation Travel Stress
- Your children should be put to bed at the same time each night, no matter where you are in the world.
- As tempting as it is to order a beer or a glass of wine when flying, altitude can exacerbate the effects of alcohol, making it more difficult to overcome jet lag or travel tiredness.
- Traveling to a wildfire-prone region in the middle of the season? Make sure you’re taking the proper precautions to avoid being woken up by airborne toxins. Make sure the room you’ll be sleeping in is the right temperature, too.
- Expect to spend more time than normal in the airport. Summer vacationers are dealing with long lines and more delays as a result of a jump in demand for travel following the outbreak of the epidemic. Be prepared to lose a few hours of sleep while traveling, and have a plan in place for when you arrive.
How to Sleep Better When Traveling
When traveling for business or pleasure, getting a good night’s sleep can make the experience more productive and enjoyable. Fortunately, there are numerous things you can do both before and during your trip to minimize the likelihood of sleep interruptions.
Minimizing Pre-Travel Stress
Sleep deprivation and mental health are both harmed when you are anxious about a vacation. Plan ahead of time so that you don’t have to rush to pack, make an itinerary, or travel to the airport at the last minute.
Sleeping on Planes, Trains, and Buses
When it comes to flying, trains, and buses, some people can fall asleep with ease while others struggle mightily.
Avoid making travel plans that need you to sleep on a plane if you’re not a natural sleeper. If you can’t sleep, taking an early flight or an overnight train can be a waste of time and money.
Make yourself as comfortable as possible if you’re planning on sleeping on an aircraft, train, or bus:
- Consider packing an additional layer in case the weather becomes cool.
- It has been established that sleeping on your back increases both the amount and quality of your sleep.
- Using headphones or earplugs, as well as a jacket or sleep mask to shield your eyes from the outside world, will help you get some shut-eye.
- Make sure you have something to rest your head on, such as a travel pillow or a small bag of clothing.
If you can, try to avoid traveling during the busiest times of the day when there will be less noise and more room for you to stretch out and sleep.
Preventing and Overcoming Travel Fatigue
Even though a full day of traveling can be taxing, getting enough rest will help you get back on track quickly. Make sure you don’t overbook your first few days of travel and allow plenty of time for rest.
Stay hydrated by drinking water before, during, and after your travel day. Because you could be exposed to germs on the plane, make sure you wash your hands frequently or use a sanitizing gel. Air travel can put you at risk for respiratory infection, so it’s crucial to follow these tips.
Practicing Healthy Habits
During a vacation, it’s natural to want to indulge, but you can still benefit from adhering to healthy habits:
- Eat wisely: If you’re going on a long trip, make sure to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation: If you drink alcohol late in the day, it might disrupt your sleep cycle and keep you up at night if you drink too much caffeine.
- Get daily exercise: Every day doesn’t have to be a workout, but you should strive to get some physical activity, even if it’s only a walk around the block.
- Utilize relaxation techniques: Deep breathing and mindfulness meditation, for example, can help you relax your body and mind, which in turn makes it easier to sleep at night.
Dealing With Jet Lag
The key to overcoming jet lag is to synchronize your circadian cycle with the new time zone. Natural light and melatonin supplements can help you sleep better, but they must be taken at the right time to prevent your internal clock from being even more out of sync.
You can work with your physician to design a strategy for combating jet lag, or you can use an app like Jet Lag Rooster or the Timeshifter app to create a timetable for sleeping, exposing yourself to light, and taking melatonin to accomplish this goal.
What Travel Accessories Can Help With Sleep?
To help you obtain a good night’s sleep when on the road, there are a variety of accessories and equipment to choose from:
- Travel pillows that are small and/or inflatable are available.
- Wear a sleep mask.
- Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs are recommended.
- Comfortable clothing, such as pajamas.
- White noise generation device or software.
- Meditation can be aided by audio recordings or an app.
- A bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated.
- Easy-to-carry snacks that are also nutritious.
- Avoid itchy sheets with a sleeping bag liner.
Can Sleeping Pills Help With Sleep While Traveling?
Prescription sleep aids, over-the-counter sleep aids, or dietary supplements are all examples of sleep aids. To assist you in sleep while traveling or once you get to your destination, nearly all formulations induce drowsiness.
It’s crucial to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using sleep aids. Traveling may be complicated if you have to deal with the accompanying drowsiness that these drugs can cause. Sedatives may keep you seated for too long on long-distance flights, increasing the risk of blood clots.
The effects of sleep aids can linger throughout the next day, resulting in the sluggishness of thought and behavior. Sleep aids can cause drowsiness, which might increase the risk of falling or other incidents.
Talking to your doctor about the pros and cons of sleeping aids is the best approach to determine which, if any, type of sleeping pills are right for you.
Should You Take Naps When Traveling?
If you’re traveling and running low on sleep, consider taking a nap to recharge your batteries. However, don’t overdo it. If you take a nap for an excessive amount of time, you may find yourself groggier when you wake up. Long afternoon or nighttime snoozes might potentially disrupt your sleep cycle.
Try to nap for no more than 30 minutes and no fewer than 60 minutes in order to reap the benefits of a nap while avoiding many of the drawbacks. Short naps after lunch are ideal, while those later in the day are best avoided.
6 Tips for Better Sleep When You Travel
Even if it’s just for a few days, flying to a new country might mess with your sleep schedule.
When it comes to sleep, we all have a window of time between 11 p.m. and 7 in the morning when our bodies are most responsive to sleep cues. You have a “circadian window,” explains Charlene Gamaldo of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, medical director of the center. When you travel, “especially over two or more time zones, it ends up playing havoc on your circadian window,” she explains.
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, these suggestions will help you get a good night’s rest.
Start shifting your bedtime an hour earlier or later three days before you’re planning to leave town. On the second evening, add an additional hour, and on the third day, an additional hour. According to Gamaldo, your body needs one day to acclimate to each time zone, so making travel arrangements ahead of time can make the process go more smoothly.
Go with the local flow (usually).
Once you’ve arrived, make an effort to match the local time. In the middle of the day, if people are awake, you want to land when people are awake, too. She advises, “Sleep as much as possible on the plane.” Stay awake on the journey and get some shut-eye at your destination if you’ll be landing in the middle of the night.”
Abide by the two-day rule.
For stays of less than two days, it’s best to stick to your own schedule. “Come home when your body gets used to it,” she says. In these circumstances, she recommends that any responsibilities or meetings be held during the equivalent of your prime waking hours at home.
Let there be light.
Gamaldo recommends bringing sunglasses with you if your aircraft lands early in the morning as you go east. Maximize your exposure to light in the late morning and early afternoon, when your circadian rhythms are closest to those of your destination.
It’s her intention to shift the clock so that it’s closer to bedtime when you get there, she explains. Light exposure in the early evening is preferable if you’re moving westward. Take a walk or go for a jog after dinner to help you get into the swing of things.
Move your body.
Gamaldo recommends taking a warm shower and going for a brisk walk outside to wake up your body and make it ready for the day. Your circadian rhythm is triggered, she explains, when your core body temperature rises above a certain point.
Preparing your body for sleep, the hormone melatonin naturally rises two hours before bedtime. Your body may require a little nudge while you’re on the road. Nonprescription melatonin is available in amounts up to 10 milligrams.
When your schedule is out of whack, it aids in the production of natural melatonin by your body. However, as Gamaldo points out, melatonin is not a panacea for jet lag. Light exposure during the day appears to be more successful at resetting your internal clock, according to research.