8 Tips For Better Sleep While Traveling

Before you catch your next flight, let's talk about how to catch some much needed zzz's on the go.

Every person is different and so are our sleep schedules. But one thing’s for sure, we all need rest, especially while traveling. Taking trips often means new settings, a change of schedule, change of time zone, jet lag, travel fatigue, travel anxiety, and generally poorer sleep.

Since every trip is also different, you may not be able to make your “circadian window” every time, which is the period somewhere between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when our bodies most want to sleep. But there are ways to work around that.

Here are the top tips for getting more sleep and feeling tired less while you travel.

Reduce Stress Before You Go

woman doing downward dog yoga pose while kissing her dog in her bedroom

How you start your trip matters, so you need to start out in a good place. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. When you’re packing your things, make yourself a list to make the process a bit smoother. Being frazzled before you travel will only increase your anxiety and lessen the quality of your sleep. Chances are, it’ll also set a negative tone for the day.

If you start out anxious, you’ll likely remain on edge throughout the day. In contrast, if you’ve begun your first leg of traveling relaxed and worry-free, it’ll be easier to go with the flow, making any and all snafus that you do run into easier to manage and less taxing on your system.

Sleep Strategically

woman sleeping in airport

Sleep specialists say that at least three days before you’re scheduled to travel, you should move your bedtime back by one hour. On the second evening, add another hour. By the third night, go back another hour. The reason for this is simple: studies show it takes about one day per time zone for your body to fully adjust. Planning ahead with the time shift in mind will help, and a little extra rest never hurt anybody.

There are other ways to sleep strategically while traveling, and you’ll have to figure out what works for your needs and plans. One way is to sleep whenever you can and not ignore the urge, allotting at least 20 minutes. If you don’t, who knows when your body (or schedule) will allow it again. It might be tempting to pummel through the fatigue, but there’s no shame in a cat nap if you’ve got the time for it.

Sync Up With The Local Schedule

man looking at watch and talking on cell phone outside

The more you’re able to go with the flow, the better off you’ll be. This is especially true when it comes to changing from one time zone to another. After you land, you should attempt to sync up with the local schedule. So step outside for a while.

For instance, if your plane lands in the middle of the day, go for an energizing walk and adapt to the time of day. And you should sleep on the plane whenever you’re able. However, if you’re landing at night, try to stay awake until you arrive and settle in.

Get Moving

woman stretching in workout clothes next to a lake

Traveling throws off our sleeping and waking routines almost more than anything else. With proper sleep and overall health in mind, it’s important to maintain our regular routines as much as possible.

When you wake up, take a warm shower and try to get a little exercise. Go outside if you can. The movement and the sun will signal your body that it’s time to get moving, increasing your core temperature and regulating your circadian rhythm.

You Are What You Eat (Especially While Traveling)

sleep mask with power foods for sleeping in the background including salmon, oranges, and yogurt

“Fueling the machine” is important all the time. But eating healthy is even more necessary when you’re up against things like jet lag, travel fatigue, and generally interrupted sleep patterns. So be kind to your body.

First things first, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your trip. H2O will help your body remain resilient through each transition. Think of food as fuel, and choose things that will nourish you. Avoid heavy options that will make you feel sluggish. Also, limit how much caffeine and alcohol you’re consuming. Both are infamous for making deep sleep more difficult, and sometimes impossible, when you need it most.

Pack Sleep-Friendly Accessories

girl using neck pillow on plane

Bring things that you know will help you sleep. Pack your sleep mask, headphones, earplugs, a book, travel pillow, neck pillow, and blanket. You may not use them all, but having them around can really come in handy.

Also, be sure you dress with rest in mind. Wear loose-fitting clothing that’s comfortable enough to sleep anywhere in, especially in positions you might not be used to.

Try Natural Sleep Aids

lavender next to a clear glass tea cup of lavender tea

Natural supplements like lavender gummies, chamomile tea, and melatonin can really help you unwind. And if you haven’t tried melatonin yet while traveling, look into it. Your natural melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime. When you’re traveling, your body clock might be thrown off. Taking melatonin can give your system a sign you are ready for slumber.

Taken at the appropriate hour, it will trigger your body to produce natural melatonin. While supplements can help you get to sleep at night, they’re not a realistic cure for jet lag. Experts say light exposure during the day is key for resetting your internal clock. So remember to get out and about the next morning.

Put Sleep on the Itinerary

couple relaxing in bed

Penciling in sleep might sound strange, but I’d say it’s critical. Not all of us can sleep on busses, trains, planes, airports, or cars, so taking whatever sleep opportunities present themselves is sometimes the only way to catch any extra zzz’s.

If you’re on a multi-day journey, consider booking a hotel or staying with a friend for the purpose of solid rest. Sleep should never be seen as an inconvenience while traveling; it’s a necessity. After all, the better sleep you get, the better rested you’ll be, and the more you’ll get out of your trip.

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