17 Tips for Better Sleep While Traveling

January 6, 2022

Crisp white sheets. Room service. Someone else to make your bed in the morning. Staying at a hotel can be a nice change of pace — until you can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep before a day of meetings.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. 

Research shows that the brain’s left hemisphere is more active in people who are sleeping in a new environment, particularly on the first night. Studies have also shown that part of the brain is more responsive to noise as well. On subsequent nights, the activity of the two brain hemispheres evens out and allows for more restful sleep — leading researchers to call this experience the “first night effect.” 

Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, there are a number of things you can do to promote more restful sleep while you’re away from home.

Plan to sleep better before the trip

  • Minimize the first night effect by aiming to stay in the same hotel for multiple nights, allowing your body to adjust to the new environment (and potential time changes.)
  • Stick with the same hotel chain for any repeating travel as they are more likely to have consistent rooms and amenities.
  • When booking your hotel room, request a room far from elevators or vending machines. Requesting a room on a higher floor can also help reduce noise from the street below.
  • If you have a particularly important meeting, try to fly in two nights early to help ensure a restless night of sleep won’t interfere with it. 
  • Packing your own pillow if you have a strong preference for a pillow type can be comforting as well as help avoid any potential allergens that may disrupt your sleep during the night.

Nix poor sleep habits

Your choices throughout the day can impact your sleep, so choose well if you know that you’ll be sleeping somewhere new that night. 

  • Limit caffeine to earlier in the day so it doesn’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed; research has shown that individuals are more likely to experience sleep disruptions and decreased sleep quality after drinking.   
  • Ditch the bedtime or midnight snack since your body needs time to digest, otherwise, indigestion or heartburn could interfere with your sleep.
  • Turn off the TV, shut down your computer, and put your phone away about an hour before you want to fall asleep; the blue light emitted from these devices slows down the production of melatonin.
  • As best you can, keep a consistent bedtime both at home and on the road, so your body can better anticipate when it’s time to wind down.

Set the mood to sleep better

We all have sleep associations that help our bodies realize it’s time for bed. As much as you can, create an environment that will trigger sleep cues. 

  • Set the thermostat between 60 and 67 degrees — 65 degrees is considered the ideal temperature for sleep, though can vary a few degrees depending on the individual.
  • Use an app like Calm, Headspace, or Spotify to play calming music or meditations before you sleep.
  • Try to follow a similar bedtime routine at home and on the road, so your body gets the message that you’re winding down for the night.
  • Pack a white noise machine to help drown out unfamiliar noises. You can also download a white noise app onto your smartphone.
  • If you prefer total silence, opt for a pair of earplugs instead of a noise machine.
  • Bring a lavender spray to spritz your room or pillow before bed; lavender is a widely used natural sleep aid. 
  • Use a sleep mask to block out any light that sneaks through the windows or under the door. 

While there are many factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep, using a few of these tips can help set you up for success while you’re on the road. Sweet dreams!

Booking a business trip shouldn't make you lose sleep. Etta, powered by Deem, offers an intuitive, powerful booking and trip management software that helps you rest easy.

Learn more about Etta at Deem's upcoming corporate travel event, Miles Ahead: The Next Decade in Business Travel, March 2, 2022.

Main image courtesy of Bruce Mars, unsplash.com.


Deem Editorial

The Deem editorial team brings important, informative commentary and data to travel managers and everyone interested in technology and the corporate travel industry.

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