This past weekend, I was visiting out-of-town family. It is always nice to go away whether it is to visit people or just to go on a little getaway, but I always have a little problem. I cannot sleep. This is not a new problem for me. I was always the kid on family vacations or slumber parties that would be wide awake half the night just staring at the ceiling, listening to everyone else sleep. And if someone was snoring in the room (and I have a family of very loud snorers) there was no sleeping for me, instead I would just be full of pure frustration. Now when I travel, I know at least the first night I will be restless and have fitful sleep. I do not have trouble sleeping at home so it is only a problem in other locations. While away this weekend, the two things I missed from home the most were Gatsby and my bed. I laid awake thinking of my nice big king size bed and my comfy sheets and the ambient nighttime noises I am so used to that I do not even really hear them. Because of my problem, I have come up with a few things that help me sleep while I am away and maybe they can help you too.
- Bring your own pillow. If you are traveling by car, bring your own pillow. If you are flying, it is hard to travel with your own pillow because of space restrictions (plus you feel a little silly carrying your pillow through the airport). There is a comfort to having your head cradled in your own broken-in pillow, that is your personal preferred height and firmness.
- Use a sound app. I don’t use a sound app at home but when away I find white noise helps reduce external noises. When I stay in a hotel, I find that there is always a lot of noise at night with people’s doors closing, the elevator and people talking in the hallway. I have found that the app Deep Calm has some good white noise including the sound of rain. There is nothing like drifting off to a good strong rainstorm to give you a good night’s sleep.
- Carve out some quiet time. I find it hard to go to sleep if I have a lot of activity right before bed. Apparently, I am like a two-year old who needs to wind down before sleep. So if you can try and carve out some quiet time and go read a book a little bit before sleep, but stay away from the screens because they make it harder for you to sleep.
- Get some exercise. The vacations where I sleep the best are when I get some exercise during the day. We used to have a lake house in Wisconsin and we would be outside all day, enjoying the sun and the water, going for walks and paddle boating. Those nights would always be the best night’s sleep because I was exhausted. We had an expression while we were up there that we had been “laked.” Similar to when you are home, getting exercise during the day makes for a better night’s sleep.
- Watch what you eat and drink. When you are on vacation, it is easy to get out of your normal eating patterns and to imbibe a little too much in a favorite alcoholic beverage. Also, afternoon coffee sounds like a good idea on vacation, until you are awake at 2:00 am and remember that you never drink caffeine after noon because otherwise you are awake all night. If you can try and stick close to what you normally eat and drink, with maybe only one indulgence, you will sleep better. Not eating well disrupts sleep because of an upset stomach or just that “too full” feeling.
- Stick to your usual bedtime and wake time. No one wants to hear this but it is easier to sleep if you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. When I am on vacation or out of town, I often end up going to bed much later and getting up later, which throws off my sleep pattern. Try and stick as close to your regular times as possible and it will be easier to sleep at night.
- In a pinch help yourself. I do not like to take medications or sleeping pills, but in a pinch I will take a Tylenol PM when I travel. It is not my first choice but when I am exhausted and can’t sleep it takes the edge off just enough that I can get some shut-eye.
And finally when you do get home, take a shower, put on your pajamas and go to bed early. Enjoy the bliss of your own bed. Do you have any tricks for sleeping when away from home? –June