Whether you’re a frequent business traveler, weekend adventurer, or find yourself away from home just once a year, it’s not easy to get your best night’s sleep when you’re not in your own bed. And if you’re in a different time zone, forget it. To help you catch more zzz’s so you can make the most of your waking time, here are tried-and-true tips from frequent travelers and sleep experts to set you up for slumber success.
Jet lag tends to worsen with the number of time zones you cross, so pre-planning your sleep schedule is crucial, says Gary K. Zammit, PhD, executive director at the Sleep Disorders Institute in Manhattan. Try to get in sync with your new time zone as soon as possible.
“I get the best night’s sleep when I adjust my body clock to the time zone of my destination a few days prior to traveling,” says Bob Jacobs, vice president of brand management for Westin. “If I’m traveling West in a few days after being on the East coast, I’ll stay up an hour or so later at night. And if I’m going to the East coast after being out West, I’ll start getting up a bit earlier each day.” Then, keep your dozing schedule as stable as possible in your new destination. Dimming your lights in the evening hours and opening shades for some bright light exposure in the early a.m. may also help, Zammit says.
Make your destination feel like home to minimize the impact of sleeping in an unfamiliar environment, suggests Zammit. Bring your favorite pajamas and pack your pillow or pillowcase, too. Still can’t unwind? Consider picking up a lavender-scented essential oil to spritz at night or to dab on your pillow. Research has found that lavender may have a positive effect on insomnia and depression.
For business traveler Christina Lampe, packing for maximum hotel room comfort is her number one priority. “You never know how loud, bright, warm or cold a hotel room will be until you get there,” she says. “I always bring a blackout eye mask, earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, and two types of pajamas in case my room is too hot or too cold. I find that I sleep better when I control the environment to make it feel like it does at home,” she says.
3. Get moving.
Being active during the day and avoiding naps is helpful for most people, especially if you can get outside and benefit from light exposure, says Zammit. Taking a quick shower in his hotel room, then putting on fresh clothes and going outside helps travel editor, James Shillinglaw, adjust to his new environment and time zone. Going for a walk when he arrives at his destination also keeps his energy levels high throughout the day, and enables him to fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly that night.
SEE ALSO: Weekend Habits That Wreck Weekday Sleep
“Whether I arrive at my hotel at noon or midnight, I keep my routine consistent so I feel settled and ready,” says Chelsea Kay Jones, of Forest Lake, Minn. Jones has worked as a Delta flight attendant for six years. “I iron and hang up my uniform for the next day, unpack my toiletries and lay them out by the sink, set up my hair products and makeup for the next day, then put anything back in my suitcase I won’t be needing.” Sticking to your usual before-bed rituals — like reading — can help you feel more comfortable, too.
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