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With the summer season in full swing, travel is at its peak. Whether it’s a short but sweet weekend getaway or full-on vacation, you deserve to enjoy your time off. But when you’re in a new environment, not following your typical routine or sleeping in your own bed, some may find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Below are eight tips and hacks to help you maximize your Zzzzs in a hotel room, Airbnb, or rental so you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
Because the brain doesn’t actually shut off at night when we sleep and instead “downregulates” to continue being able to respond to threats such as a fire alarm going off, external noises may fragment sleep as the brain gets pulled to attend to the noise and ensure it does not need to respond. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to make the room as silent as possible while you sleep. The problem? It’s difficult to know in advance whether you’re going to be in a quiet room or rental home. For hotels, you can always ask to reserve a room down the hall away from the elevator to avoid middle-of-the-night disturbances from other hotel guests, but to err on the safe side, we recommend bringing earplugs—specifically ones made with silicone, which tend to be noise-canceling. There are also smaller, portable white noise machines that you can bring with you on vacation.
If your room has blackout curtains, great. But even if not, there are work-arounds to make the room darker. Our go-to is to take an extra blanket (there’s usually one in the closet) and drape it over the window so it essentially serves as a second blind or set of shades. Towels will do the trick as well. And sleep masks can help!
You don’t want bright light creeping in since it activates the receptors in the eyes which are linked to the time-keeper in the brain regulating when we sleep and when we are awake.
Many hotel rooms and rentals still have old-fashioned alarm clocks, which we recommend turning around before you go to sleep. This way, you’ll avoid the temptation to look at the time should you wake up in the middle of the night, which can trigger a feeling of pressure to get back to sleep, thus activating the sympathetic system. Also, if your alarm clock has a screen, the blue light can trigger the light receptors in your eyes, which interferes with good sleep.
Natural light exposure is the most potent factor regulating our 24-hour cycles. If you can, sneak outside for 15-minutes (morning light is best) to reinforce this circadian cue. This trick is particularly helpful when traveling and suffering from jet lag of just a few hours difference (not 8-12 hours). Once you get to your new location and new time zone, resist the urge to catnap in your hotel room. Instead, get outside and chase the sunshine on that first day!
Get high-quality, deeper sleep that will leave you feeling refreshed and well-rested, not groggy.
During certain sleep stages, our bodies do not thermoregulate as much, so if your room temperature is too hot or cold, it can lead to sleep disruptions. Right around bedtime, your body temperature drops 1-2 degrees, which signals to your internal clock that it’s time to hit the hay. We recommend keeping your air conditioner at a cool 60 - 67°F.
No A/C? Head to the ice machine or freezer to grab a few scoops of ice (if you don’t have access to either, try calling down to the front desk). Place the ice in front of a box fan for a misty spray as the fan blows cold vapor off the surface of the ice—the perfect way to get a cross breeze and an extra cooling effect.
READ MORE: 8 Tips To Stay Cool At Night
If you find yourself tossing and turning, unable to wind-down during the first night in a new place, know that it may be temporary. Known as the “first night effect” (or FNE, for short) this phenomenon results from half of the brain essentially “standing watch” in hyper-vigilance while the other half sleeps more deeply. (1) More often than not, this resolves come night two, so don’t judge a hotel stay by your first night’s sleep quality.
They’re small and easy to throw into a carry-on or purse. Plus, you’ll be happy you have them for help winding down at night. We recommend chamomile, which is rich in flavonoids, a group of natural plant chemicals (aka phytonutrients) that, in addition to contributing to the vivid hues of fruits and vegetables, also contribute to its sleep-promoting effects. Clinical trials suggest that it functions as a central nervous system relaxer (similar to valerian root). (2) Chamomile in extract and supplement form has been shown to improve sleep quality and may be effective and safe for supporting relaxation. (3-5)
READ MORE: 7 Best Teas For Sleep
Proper supplements are drug-free and non-habit-forming. They’re designed for consistent, daily use (just like a multivitamin or other dietary supplement)—in fact, the benefits of most ingredients actually build over time. Plus, they’re specially designed to respond differently depending on what stage of sleep you’re in, whether it’s REM (active sleep) or non-REM (quiet sleep). The result: not just more sleep but high-quality, deeper sleep that will leave you feeling refreshed and well-rested the next morning, not groggy. Now THAT’S the feeling you want on your vacation! Browse our full selection of supplements to learn more.