There are two types of travelers when it comes to sleep – those who simply love a hotel bed and can fall asleep before the lights are even turned off, and those who find that they struggle to sleep when they are in a hotel room, despite the hotel’s best efforts to make the space as comfortable as possible. If you are one of the many who struggles to sleep when it comes time to turn down the sheets, we have a few options to try that may be worth your while.
On top of your own usual tips and tricks, try adding these to your next trip away from home for the most optimal sleep you can get, regardless of the purpose or duration of your stay.
1. Close the Curtains
It may seem obvious for privacy reasons, but another benefit? Hotel-quality blackout curtains. Many hotels now have these as a standard furnishing, but even if they don’t, keeping the curtains closed will bring on the melatonin alerting your brain that sleep is coming. They will also give you the peace of mind that no one is looking in, not even the brightest of street lights.
As your day winds down with the sun, close the curtains to give your brain time to shift into relaxation and sleep mode. Because it’s something we also do at home, it’s an action that you will recognize in the back of your mind as a transition before bed.
2. Dim the Lights
Hotels typically have a range of different light bulbs throughout their rooms. This ensures that each guest will be able to use the space for the purpose that they require – to work, eat, sleep, etc.
When you’re ready to wind down, dim the lights by turning off the larger bulbs and only using the smaller light options, such as bedside tables or headboard lights. Avoid the desk lamps as those typically use cooler bulbs where warmer bulbs will support a relaxed mood better.
Bonus if the room comes with its own dimmer!
3. Take Advantage of the Tea
These days, your average hotel will equip even standard rooms with coffee/tea making facilities, free of charge.
Skip the coffee and reach for the Chamomile tea. Chamomile is loaded with Apigenin, an antioxidant that has soothing effects for your brain and body.
Other teas that may help? Lavender and lemon, as well as many other herbal, non-caffeinated teas, can also help do the trick. If you know you may struggle with sleeping, pack your own so you will never run out!
4.Take a Shower
A warm shower will do more than just wash away the remnants of that well-used airplane seat. If you have had a full day of traveling, your body could probably stand to receive a little love. A shower can help to relax stressed, tired muscles, helping you prepare your body for a comfortable sleep.
A good, old fashioned hot shower will work, but for added de-stressing, try adding essential oil spray or shower tablets while the steam is building. They are easy to pack and you will end up feeling like you’re having a spa day just before bed.
There’s also not much else that compares to the relaxing feeling of being fresh and clean in freshly cleaned sheets. Speaking of…
5. Check the Sheets
We have all heard the horror stories of less-than-hygienic practices by some hotels. We always hope the hotel has done the right thing, but it will never hurt to do a quick once-over on the bed sheets and pillows.
If you suspect anything is amiss, just ask the front desk for your sheets to be changed so you don’t have to worry about where you’re resting your head.
6. Secure the Locks
Sometimes it’s just all about safety. Sleeping in a new, strange space can have an effect on your mental state, even if you don’t realize it. This could be contributing to your feelings of interrupted rest.
Studies have shown that half of your brain remains alert when you first begin sleeping in a new place. It’s your inherent way of keeping yourself safe in unfamiliar territory, which we all can appreciate. Ensuring that the locks are properly locked and you know where the emergency exits are will put your mind at ease, just in case.
7. Get on the Local Time
If you’ve traveled over time zones and your body has no idea when you should be going to sleep, try to avoid taking a nap. The longer you hold out, the easier it will be for your circadian rhythm to adjust to the local time, making it easier for you to fall and stay asleep.
This applies to altering your meal times as well, the more you can do to help your body adjust, the easier it will be to train it to this new time zone.
If you can transition to the local time quickly, this is the most beneficial way to help avoid jet lag.
8. Make Yourself Comfortable
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it’s always nice to feel comfortable in your hotel room, especially if you will be there for a few days.
If you have a favorite pair of socks or a small framed picture of your dog – try bringing a little bit of home with you! Something that will remind you of restful times will help when you’re lying there, staring at someone else’s ceiling.
9. Put on Some Tunes
If you have a particular genre of music that helps calm you down or helps you mellow out, try listening to a quiet playlist a bit before bed. This will give you a few minutes of downtime to take a few breaths and switch out of travel mode.
While you probably won’t want to listen to your workout jams just before bed, something with a soothing tune can help settle you into a sleep time mood. It is even suggested to try a white noise app that can double as a noise blocking sleep promoter.
10.Adjust the Tempature
When preparing for sleep, our bodies naturally lower in temperature and rise again as we wake up. Mental states such as stress and irritability can also keep body temperatures up. By lowering the temperature in the room, you are signaling to your brain that it is time for your body to prepare for sleep.
Not only that, you are keeping yourself cool so you don’t wake up sweating in the early hours, disrupting your sleep even more.
11. Opt for a Late Checkout
The last thing you want is to stress about is making sure you’re up early to check out on time. Especially if you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Many hotels now offer a slightly later checkout, free of charge, so be sure to request this when booking your room. This will give you time to wake up and make your way out at your own pace. If you did have trouble sleeping the night before, this is something to be grateful for when morning comes.
12. Stick to Your Routines
If you hit the gym at 5:30 pm every day or do an early morning yoga session to get your day started, try to keep as much of your home-life routine as possible.
But who wants to go to the gym when you’re on vacation? Honestly, not many of us. The good news is you don’t have to do your full 2-hour-sweat-induced-muscle-shredding routine. There are many small things you can do (even just inside your hotel room) that will help you maintain the rhythm you already have at home, but also help keep you energized and feeling fit as you sip on the margaritas later.
The stress, excitement, or nerves of traveling will already be enough for your body to wonder what it is supposed to be doing next. Keeping a bit of a routine will give you an overall sense of normalcy that can help when it comes time to hit the hay.
13. Avoid The Mini Bar
As we all know, alcohol can be a nice way to help fall asleep at the end of a long day; however, when it comes to achieving restful sleep, alcohol has the opposite effect.
This is because it leaves you in a deep sleep, rather than R.E.M. (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep which is important for energizing and restoring your mood. These are two incredibly important things you will need if you’re traveling for any reason. Unless you want to wake up feeling like you never slept at all, it’s best to leave out the alcohol.
The added benefit of this is saving on those outrageous mini bar prices!
14. Loyalty Has its Perks
Have you ever stayed at a hotel that you absolutely loved? The amenities and comfort were perfect for your liking? If the answer is YES, it may be helpful to become a rewards member for all of its locations. Not only will you rack up points (read: discounts down the line), but you can expect that your favorite hotel will maintain its standard of satisfaction in each of its locations.
If your favorite hotel doesn’t happen to have a branch in the city you will be in, check the website for any affiliates. They often honor Rewards Members and you can be sure that they will be on the same level as the comfort that you’re familiar with.
15.Location, Location, Location
If you’re in a new town or this city doesn’t have your preferred chain, make sure you do a thorough amount of research on your chosen hotel’s location. Is it close to the airport or a major freeway? Perhaps it’s in the middle of a popular tourist attraction. Try to find out what is nearby that could prevent you from sleeping throughout the night due to unfamiliar noises.
Remember that if it is close to where you need to be, it is likely to be close to where many others need to be too, increasing your chances of hearing late night or early morning bustle.
16.Request a “Quiet Room”
By now you know that sleep doesn’t always come easy for you. Which means that your room location can be just as important as your hotel location. Request a room that is far from your standard known noises – such as elevators, pools, and floors closer to street level. The less foot traffic that you will have to hear outside your door, the better.
It also may be helpful to find out if the hotel itself is undergoing any renovation. This is, again, a noise that you would want to be far away from as they may begin early in the day.
Once in your room, if you find that there is a bachelorette party happening next door or they simply listen to the TV much too loudly for those thin walls, contact the front desk who will be happy to request that the offenders lower their volume, or worst case – move you if necessary.
17.Do Not Disturb
If you already have trouble falling asleep, eliminating as many outside influences as possible is going to be a massive help.
Housekeeping for the hotel may begin earlier than you’d like to wake up, so be sure to put out the Do Not Disturb sign.
While you’re at it, unless you’re expecting an important call – set the room phone to DND as well. If you’re on a different time zone from people who may be trying to contact you, silence your cell phone and deal with any alerts when you’re fully awake.
18. Earplugs and Sleeping Masks
Some outside influences may be unavoidable. If you are unable to get the quietest room in the calmest hotel in the most laid-back city – it’s probably time to invest in some earplugs and a face mask. Especially for those who are sensitive to light, an eye mask can work wonders to help tune out stray rays. They have proven to be helpful tools for night shift workers for many years.
Not all earplugs or masks are created equally and it can take a few tries to get used to them and make them feel less uncomfortable, but they can be a valuable asset on those nights when it feels like Mardi Gras is happening right outside your window.
If you’re new to the earplug and sleep mask world, try keeping the ones from your flight, if they were provided. Something is better than nothing!
19. It All Makes Scents
Have you ever smelled a certain scent and were immediately sent down memory lane? This is because your sense of smell is one of your strongest senses and can drastically affect your mood, relaxation, and even memories.
While you’re requesting location specific rooms, definitely make sure that you’re placed in a non-smoking room or non-smoking floor. The smell of stale cigarette smoke can be enough to disrupt even a smoking sleeper, so it’s best to avoid it if you’re looking for a comfortable night of sleep.
Give your nose a clean slate to work with as you’re breathing by bringing along a travel-sized spray bottle with your favorite room spray, such as lavender.
20.Make a To-Do list.
For those of us who struggle to fall asleep on the best of days, we know that one of the biggest culprits of our lack of sleep is an abundance of thoughts. If you’re in a hotel, there’s probably a reason why you’re traveling which means several things you will need to tackle in the coming days, whether business or pleasure.
Rather than lying awake and formulating your next steps at 2 am when you should be sleeping – make a list of all that you need to do tomorrow. Writing it down will give you a bit of clarity, will help prevent it from circling needlessly, and will alleviate the fear of forgetting something in the morning.
21. Accept It
Hang on. We’ve spent the last 20 suggestions encouraging you to find ways that will help you sleep better. Surely the answer isn’t just “accept that you will probably sleep terribly.” Fear not and hear me out! Think back to any time you have had trouble falling asleep, be it at home or while traveling. What is often the most pressing thought which feels as though it is keeping you awake for endless hours?
Frustration with the fact that you cannot fall asleep. That’s right – your growing irritation with your own brain, the constant checking of the clock, the mental math to try to calculate how much sleep you will get if you actually fall asleep right this second…it’s only making the process worse.
So just accept that you’re not going to fall asleep yet. Experts even suggest turning on a small light, read a chapter out of a book, take a walk around the room or turn on a mindless TV show at a low volume. This will bring your brain out of frustration mode and will remind it that you actually are tired and ready for bed.