We all know that we feel better when we get good sleep, but yet, sometimes it seems like folks get into a competition for bragging rights to see how little sleep they can get and still function.
The thing is that there’s so much that we don’t know about sleep; for example, why we do it.
We know that we process information and learn while we sleep, and that our cells regenerate. But when we think about early man, and how much it made him vulnerable to predators, it’s not logical to think that we shut down for 1/3 of our life.
Just like amounts of calories, how much alone time we need, or whether we like cilantro, everyone’s ideal amount of sleep differs. Some folks do great on 6 hours, while others need a solid 8. And there are times in our life when we might need more – like when our body is healing or growing – for example, when we’re growing children and teens, or when we’re recovering from being sick.
But research shows that too little sleep can really deteriorate our physical, mental and emotional health.
Studies show that after just a few nights of not getting enough sleep, subjects started to show signs of diabetes even though they hadn’t changed their eating habits.
It’s also a known fact that after just one poor nights sleep, the next day, when we’re tired, we will crave sugary or starchy foods, because our brain subconsciously knows that those foods will give us a quick jolt of energy.
But when we’re traveling for work, we want to be on top of our game – and when we’re traveling for pleasure, we want to take it all in. Yet, many of us have trouble sleeping when we’re in a new environment.
Different noises, mattress, sheets, pillows, and light levels can make it difficult to relax when we’re out of our home environments.
Establish a routine
Regardless of whether you’re traveling or not, one of the best techniques you can use to get good sleep anytime is to create and follow a sleep routine. A sleep routine signals to our brain that we’re getting ready to go to sleep. A sleep routine can be any series of actions/behaviors. But most importantly, we want them to be calming tasks. Examples might include brushing your teeth; getting your clothes/things together for the following day; journaling, creating a list of things you want to do the following day, reading, or listening to a guided meditation.
Now – when you’re traveling, try to adhere to the same type of routine. It will create some normalcy and stability in your routine, and your brain will get the clue that it’s time for bed.
Modify exposure to electronics
Many electronics companies are doing a great job with allowing users to dim their screens as we move in to the evening hours. The light that we take in from our computer and mobile devices sends signals to our brain that it’s still light out – which can disrupt our brain’s ability to sleep.
But not all mobile apps are bad. In fact, many can be great for sleeping! A few that I recommend are:
- meditation apps – there are great apps out there that put your mind in the right place for falling asleep! just pop in your headphones, and turn on the audio.
- noise machines – if you’re hearing ambient noise in your hotel, or if you’re not used to the sounds of a city, a noise machine can be really helpful. Most apps give you a variety of sounds to choose from storms, to ocean waves, to white noise. They’re great!
But if you are still using your device, make sure that you dim the brightness of your device so that less light comes through – even better, if your device allows you to set auto-dimming at a specific time of day!
Limit exposure to stimulating inputs
That said, while limiting our exposure to the amount of light that we expose ourselves to, we also want to consider the content of what we’re consuming through the television or our electronics.
I love scary movies, but I also know that I’ve had more than a few poor night’s sleep because I watched a scary movie before bed.
The same could be true for the news cycle, or graphic or violent computer games. Be very careful and protective over what you expose yourself to in the hour or two before you fall asleep.
Minimize alcohol & caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine affect everyone differently. Where my husband can’t drink anything caffeinated after noon if he expects to have a decent night’s sleep, I can have coffee after dinner and not have it influence my sleep at all.
And while most folks believe that a few drinks will put them fast asleep, research shows that the type of rest that we get when we’ve had a few too many isn’t a restful sleep. Again, for each person, the amount of alcohol that they can have before bed will vary. However, limiting the amount of alcohol that you consume will help you feel more rested and able to think clearly the following day.
Especially when traveling, I try to alternate 1 large glass of water for every alcoholic drink.
Have you ever fallen into bed exhausted, but your brain is going one million miles a moment? You can’t fall asleep, and yet, you’re wondering why?
Most often, that occurs when we’re mentally exhausted, but our bodies aren’t. Our brains and bodies are interconnected because our brains are located inside our body. Our body still has energy pumping around in it, and hasn’t been sufficiently exercised because we haven’t moved a lot throughout the day.
Exercising doesn’t have to take a lot of time – just getting into the habit of doing it is the most important thing. And there are so many different choices out there that you shouldn’t have to do something that you don’t like.
Need short, effective workout ideas while you’re travelling? Download Active Anywhere: the Traveling Girl’s Guide to Working Out on the Road This guide gives you over 20 short, and intense workouts that you can do Anywhere – hotel, park, or AirBnb!
It is often the case that because we’re traveling, and don’t have access to our kitchen, like we would at home, we’re often eating out at restaurants. Although restaurants have shifted in the types of foods that they offer – putting more healthy food choices on their menus, and being more accommodating to special diets, restaurant portions can still be large, and high in sodium, which can make us feeling bloated the next day.
When dining out in restaurants, I offer a few suggestions to my clients:
- substitute extra vegetables for starch
- drink as much water as you can – preferably drinking 1 glass of water for every alcoholic drink
But also, try to have at least 2 hours between when you eat, and when you go to bed. When we go to bed on a full stomach, it can really disrupt our sleep.
So, in addition to ordering lighter food for your last meal of the day, it’s a great idea to eat earlier (if you can).
The Take Away
Sleeping on the road can definitely be a challenge because it takes us out of the routines that we’ve established at home. But the more that we can adhere to those behaviors that we do on a regular basis at home while we’re on the road, will help us create more normalcy when we’re traveling.