For those of us fortunate enough to indulge in it, travel is one of the greatest pleasures any of us can enjoy. The mix of excitement and trepidation that you experience while exploring a new and fascinating town, country and culture is unmatched anywhere else in life.
The smells, the sights, the exotic new faces and flavours, it all combines in intoxicating ways. Travel for many of us is when we truly feel alive. At least it is if we are conscious enough to enjoy it. You see, one of the downsides of venturing to new and unusual lands is that our sleep often suffers as a result. And nothing will rob your enjoyment of anything quicker than a terrible night’s sleep, or four terrible nights sleep in a row.
Yep, all that moving around, the changes in temperatures, the unfamiliar beds, the new diet and all the extra stimulation our brain’s receive, often mean that the most foreign thing about travel is a good night’s rest. Managing this element of any trip can have a huge impact on your entire time away.
Fortunately, I’m here to help you. As both a veteran traveler and longtime terrible sleeper, I feel especially qualified to pass on a little bit of hard-won wisdom.
Let’s start with the hardest, hostels. Oh hostels, most travelers I know have a love-hate relationship with hostels. We love the cost. We love the simplicity. We love how easy it is to meet new and like-minded individuals. Did I mention we love the cost? But we hate how hard it is to get a good night’s sleep in a room full of snoring, farting, light-turning-on, door-banging complete-and-utter strangers.
Fortunately, with a few little tricks, and an outlay of a about $3 you can transform the loudest hostel dorm into a sensory deprivation chamber perfect for sleep. All you need is an eye mask like your Auntie Betty wears, some earplugs and a sarong or towel. Oh, and make sure you grab a bottom bunk.
String up your sarong or towel around the opening to your bunk, voilà you’ve got yourself an instant sleeping pod. Now don your sleeping mask and earplugs and suddenly the constant flicking on and off of the lights and all that snoring is in a different world entirely.
Why is getting a good night’s sleep in a hotel so difficult? After all the bed is comfy, the sheets are clean and the room is quiet. Well, scientists actually believe there’s an evolutionary reason for our inability to sleep. It seems when we bed down in unfamiliar locations, such as a hotel, a section of our brain stays alert and on the lookout for danger. Kind of like a night watchman. This means the slightest strange noise or change in environment will likely wake us.
That doesn’t mean we should just give up and accept this situation, all it means is we have to work a little bit harder to make ourselves comfortable and relaxed. One way I’ve found that can trick my brain into a better night’s sleep is to travel with my own pillowcase. The familiar smell and feel of my own case against my skin seems to help hugely.
So too does unleashing two sprays of lavender essential oil on to the pillow before I bed down. Lavendar has been used in traditional medicine for millennia for it’s anti-anxiety and soothing qualities, and it seems western medicine is finally starting to catch on too! Plus, as I do this at home too, it again makes the hotel bed feels a lot more familiar and helps to lull the night watchman section of my brain to sleep too.
Oh, and one final tip for hotels. Always carry a little bit of duct tape. Not to fix any pipes but to cover any annoying flashing lights. You know the ones that blink at you constantly from televisions or air conditioning units. A bit tape in your bag weighs nothing and costs almost nothing. Which means you have nothing to lose by sticking a bit in your bag.
I learnt that last little tip whilst researching an article for the sleepadvisor.org, a great site if you’re looking for anything at all sleep related. It is jam-packed full of slumber-based hints and tips.
Ah, planes, another thing that most travelers I speak to have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. I for one am still blown away by the mere fact that us humans have conquered the limitations of our earthbound body and taken to the sky. If we were meant to fly we’d have wings on our back. It’s a genuine freaking miracle. But I also really really hate plane seats. Why are they so damn uncomfortable?!
Planes are great a getting large amounts of us over oceans but they are not great at getting us there nice and rested. Oh, no. planes are terrible places to sleep in. Fortunately, you already have your eyemask and earplugs in your bag. You also have that handy sarong that you can use as a blanket. All you need now is a neck pillow and you have everything you need to make yourself a nice little bed.
But the real trick to getting sleep on a plane is avoiding temptation. That means ignoring the lure of the drinks cart as it rolls on past. Sleep and alcohol don’t mix. They are terrible bedfellows. I know the alcohol is free but just say no. Don’t be silly. You’re going traveling, you definitely have enough money to buy a drink at your destination.
Next, avoid that little television screen in front of you. Yes, I know there are at least 12 films starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. And yes, I know they are all brilliant. But you don’t need that right now. Now you need sleep.
If you can keep on top of your willpower, avoid these temptations, then there is no reason you can’t grab a few hours sleep on the plane. It’s possible. I know. I’ve done it.
Sleeping on the beach is a right of passage for any traveler. There is absolutely nothing better in this world than waking up at sunrise on a beautiful beach somewhere in the Philippines to the sound of the waves lapping at your toes. Oh, hang on, yes there is, and that’s waking up not covered in insect bites.
Sleeping on the beach is fun but there are a few hazards it entails. I know I’ve experienced them all. The beach is full of sand flies, sand ticks, mosquitos and many other members of the general insect population. Now, don’t let these little guys put you off but do take a few precautionary measures. A mosquito is great but so too is wrapping yourself in a towel or simply remembering to put your trousers back on before you fall asleep.
Next up be careful of your valuables. Sleeping on the beach by definition leaves you open to the elements and with it, you are a little vulnerable. Now the chances of anything really bad happening to you are very slim but don’t be silly. Don’t fall asleep with your phone on display for instance.
Finally and this should go without saying but I’ll mention it just in case, don’t sleep on the beach on your own. Firstly, everything is more fun when you do it with friends. And secondly, there’s safety in numbers. Both from weirdos and from dogs. Actually mainly from dogs.
Well, there you have it my fellow travel lovers, my top tips to a good night’s sleep when traveling. I learnt most of them the hard way. Hopefully there is a nugget or two amongst them that might save you some of the sleepless nights I had when on the road. Happy travels and sweet dreams!
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post, however, this does not influence in any way my opinions.
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