Summer holidays are a great opportunity to truly relax and catch up on all that much missed sleep. However, the excitement of vacation is often dampened by restless nights and groggy mornings, with peaceful sleep only a distant memory of home.
Here, our experts look at the most common reasons for sleep difficulties when travelling, plus some handy tips on how to sleep on holiday and tackle travel insomnia.
Sleep anxiety while travelling is not uncommon. The fear of not being able to go to sleep or stay asleep unfortunately makes it much harder for us to nod off. This is also known as travel insomnia, and even frequent travellers can suffer from it. This problem is further compounded if you feel there are things at stake, such as being too tired the next day to enjoy your valuable time off.
It’s easy to say not to worry about it, but sleep anxiety and travel insomnia are involuntary. Instead, you should try not to obsess over it, and focus on implementing a healthy sleep routine while you are away, which we will go into in a little more detail later.
Sleeping before a holiday
Sleeping better on your holiday starts with trying to get enough quality sleep before you leave. We often sacrifice our pre-holiday sleep in favour of last-minute packing or trying to finish off extra work tasks, telling ourselves that we will catch up while we are away. However, this strategy will only throw off your natural sleep rhythm and you may end up even more tired because you can’t catch up. At best, you’ll probably oversleep and miss a lot of the first couple of days of your well-earned time off!
Be sure to prioritise a normal bedtime routine in the run up to your holiday and if you have an early morning flight, try and get at least a few hours of sleep beforehand rather than staying up with the intention of sleeping on the plane - you can do that anyway!
Sleeping in a new environment
It is normal for people to sleep badly on the first night in a strange bed, as our body struggles to adjust to unfamiliar environments. Our brains are trained to protect us in vulnerable situations, just as birds and dolphins stay alert for predators whilst asleep.
New hotel rooms fall into this category, and we often remain in a ‘ready for action’ state of vigilance, scanning for threats and any signs of danger. We recommend staying in the same hotel room/chain if you travel regularly, or recreating your bedroom in your hotel room (as much as possible) to convince your brain you’re safe.
Optimum sleep temperature
The optimum sleep temperature is between 16 and 19 degrees, and nights are often hotter abroad. If the temperature of the room is too high this can lead to restlessness and affect REM sleep, (characterised by more dreaming and bodily movement, and faster pulse and breathing). To sleep better in the holiday heat, try placing a cool flannel on your head, investing in a portable fan or sipping ice water to beat the heat.
You are likely to have spent considerable time and money investing in the right mattress that meets your every need. Obviously you can’t take your bed or your mattress on holiday with you, however you might be able to pack your pillow, which will make the transition easier. Not only will your pillow have a familiar smell and texture, but the comfort and support will be right for you and could make the difference between poor sleep and better quality holiday sleep.
Creating a holiday bedtime routine
Ear plugs, an eye mask and a warm shower is your new holiday bedtime mantra. Good ear plugs will mute noisy hotel guests and unusual sounds that don’t normally feature on your night time soundtrack. An eye mask is a great help if your curtains are particularly thin, and will block out the sunlight if you rise later than normal due to irregular bedtimes. Lastly, give yourself ample time to de-stress before bed, and take a warm shower or bath to signal to the brain that it is time to sleep.
Other little tricks include opening a window to increase air circulation and ventilate the room, incorporating a brisk walk into your daily routine and not drinking close to bedtime. A 20 minute afternoon nap between 1pm and 4pm can invigorate your day and boost productivity, but will not affect your sleep at night, and home comforts like fluffy socks and a cuddly toy can be soothing.
Opt for an ecological hotel
Finally, studies have shown that unfamiliar pesticides and cleaning chemicals can also keep us awake. An 'ecologically fresh' bedroom allows the human body to relax, which in turn means a better night's sleep. To help with this, you could stay at one of our luxury partner hotels that guarantee natural, ecological and sustainable rest.
Getting a good night’s sleep on holiday should be part of the enjoyment, not a source of anxiety, and by following these tips, you should be able to alleviate your travel insomnia, and bank on a much more restful and happy holiday.
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