Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep While Traveling
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My Top Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep While Traveling
I’ve never been a good sleeper.
Or rather, I’m not a very good “fall-er asleep-er.” Once I’m out, I’m out, but I’ve spent my lifetime struggling to fall asleep.
As such, I’ve developed a pretty intense sleep routine that I follow every night before bed and I do my best to follow this routine when I’m away from home. By now, we pretty much all know about sleep’s profound effect on our everyday happiness and overall health, so I prioritize a good night’s sleep while traveling. When we operate on too little sleep, we’re cranky, irritable and unfocused – not exactly the ideal state of mind for enjoying once in a lifetime travels.
If You’re Not Prioritizing Sleep While Traveling, What Are You Even Doing?
Between the disrupted schedules we all experience when we acquiesce to strange flight times and sleeping in unfamiliar settings, too many of us spend our travels sleep-deprived. Yet what can you do to get the sleep you need for the best travel experiences when it’s arguable hardest to get a good night’s sleep whiling traveling?
There’s certainly an art to sleeping in new places and while I can’t say I get perfect sound sleep every night I travel, the routine I’ve developed definitely helps. I throw a little “sleep pouch” into my luggage to keep every thing I need for a good night’s sleep while traveling close at hand. If you want to fall asleep faster and relax your racing thoughts (which I think we’re all especially prone to when we’re traveling with so many new experiences to process), read on!
What’s Inside My Travel Sleep Kit
I like using a colorful pouch to keep all the items I use for my travel sleep routine together. I never unpack this pouch, so I don’t worry about forgetting an element of the routine. Grab and go, baby!
I actually made the pouch I use (it measures 6×6”) but there’s no hard fast rules about the size or style of this bag. An Ipsy makeup bag would work great, or you could even just use a ziploc bag. The real key here is to keep all the elements in one spot so you don’t spend the day before your trip rooting through the bathroom medicine cabinet assembling your kit!
I put on essential oils (either lavender or this sleep blend) every night before bed. When traveling, I leave the essential oils at home and opt for this Badger Balm Sleep Balm with Lavender and Bergamot. The balm feels less prone to make a mess (can you imagine the horror if an essential oil broke or spilled?!) in my luggage and I also don’t have to separate it out of my sleep pouch into my 3-1-1 plastic bag if I’m traveling carry-on only.
The balm smells more subtle than pure essential oils, so I don’t feel self-conscous about the smell if I dab a little on in the airplane. I usually rub a little on my wrist right before bed. Sometimes I’ll even put a little right under my nose or on my lips. I don’t really believe in the magical healing powers of essential oils, but I’ve used them for so many years before bed that they have a Pavlov’s dog effect if nothing else. To me, the smell signals that it’s time to calm down and go to sleep.
Sleep research shows that we get the best sleep when we sleep in a dark room. But how many times have you tried to drift off in a hotel room only to discover a streetlight shining right in your eyes through the flimsy shades?
Before my very first international trip, my grandma gave me a sleep mask that she’d received when she was bumped up to first class one time. I think the mask has gone on pretty much every trip I’ve ever taken since.
Do I feel like a ridiculous, pretty pretty princess every time I put on my sleep mask when I’m sharing a room with someone while I’m traveling? Yes, yes, I do.
Do it I wear it anyway? Yes, yes, I do.
It really makes a difference to not have weird light slanting in through the shades or random, flashing neon signs distracting me and casting weird shadows around my bedroom. No need to get all fancy when buying a sleep mask. My cheapest of cheap sleep mask has been serving me well for decades.
Essential oils and sleep masks are all well and good, but if I’m serious about getting a good night’s sleep while traveling, I put in earplugs. I get very distracted by strange new sounds, so earplugs are a game-changer for me getting a good night’s sleep while traveling.
While I have no real brand preference for anything else in my sleep kit, I love Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam earplugs. They block out or significantly diminish any strange creaks or furnace noises, but don’t worry, they do let enough noise so you’re not going to sleep through a fire alarm. (Yes, I know from experience.) Between the darkness of the sleep mask and muted atmosphere from the earplugs, I can almost trick myself into thinking I’m sleeping in my own very dark and very quiet bedroom at home.
I take a magnesium supplement every night, whether I’m at home or on the road. There’s lots of information online arguing that we’re all magnesium deficient and many studies link an increase in magnesium intake with lowered anxiety and blood pressure. An anxious person prone to hypertension, I feel it just makes sense for me to take magnesium. Obviously, please do a little research and consult with your doctor before you start adding even the most seemingly harmless supplements to your diet. Because magnesium is linked with “calm,” it’s often recommended that you take it before bed, so I usually take it within an hour of lights out. I’m not sure it really helps me fall asleep any faster, but since starting to take it, I’m definitely less anxious – also a plus when traveling!
The other supplement I always take when traveling is slightly more controversial: 3 mg of melatonin. Many people perpetuate the belief that since melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, it’s perfectly harmless. Others argue that you should never take a synthetic hormone because of the confusing effect it could have on your body and its natural production of hormones.
As for my personal beliefs about melatonin, I take the middle road. I don’t take it every night – I limit my taking it to traveling or when it’s absolutely crucial for me to get eight hours of sleep. While I’m not sure if it works like pain killers where your body can get habituated to it and force you to increase your dosage, it just feels best to take it easy with melatonin.
A friend introduced me to melatonin after a 72 hour travel marathon (nightmare?) where I didn’t have the luxury of leaning into jet lag due to both the short nature of the trip and the fact that I was presenting to a bunch of college students at 11 a.m. local time the next morning. The good night’s sleep I got that night was priceless and at this point, I can’t imagine traveling without melatonin. I take one small dose of melatonin about an hour before bedtime and it seems to help me fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply. For me, its personal benefits outweigh the potential downsides when I’m on the road.
Don’t Forget: Take Time To Unwind Before Sleep While Traveling
Obviously, even more so than melatonin and all the other tricks I use in my sleep kit, your behavior in the hours leading up to bedtime significantly affects how quickly you fall asleep and how deeply you sleep. At this point in adulthood, I have a pretty good handle on my insomnia triggers and know alcohol and sugar too close to bed are a sure way to sabotage my rest. As a result, I try to enjoy any alcohol fairly early in the evening. Happy hour or over dinner are the perfect times for me enjoy that local IPA while ensuring it doesn’t set me tossing and turning come bedtime. There’s no way I’m not eating dessert when I’m traveling; I just prefer to enjoy it in the late morning or early afternoon instead of after supper.
If possible, I try to budget an hour of “calm time” before lights out when I’m traveling. This isn’t always possible, but ideally I take time update my travel journal on the day’s adventures and read a chapter or two of my book. It’s a good time to meditate/pray too.
I know a lot of people swear by the Calm app meditations – especially the sleep stories. While I’ve used Calm when I travel, it wasn’t as effective for me as the tools in my sleep kit and spending some time consciously unwinding before bed. If you do nothing else before going to bed while traveling, do avoid any bluescreen (phone, laptop, tv, etc.) for at least half an hour before lights out.
I hope this gives you some strategies to try for the best night sleep possible the next time you travel. I’d love to hear any tricks you use to make sure you can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for every day of your trip too. Let me know in the comments below!
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