We’ve all been there. The pull-out sofa at Aunt Connie’s house, the top bunk at Cousin Dave’s, the cheap motel we booked last minute because “we’re not going to be spending that much time in the room after all.” Even the times we splurge for a suite, when it comes to sleeping in that unfamiliar space, we don’t. There are evolutionary reasons for this. Scientists say primeval instinct based on the need to survive dictates we can’t just fall asleep in an unfamiliar place, comfortably. Home base is where we feel (and statistically are) safest. But, there has to be a way to tone down this instinct in favor of getting a good night’s sleep while you’re away from home. Once safety has been assured, you should be able to sleep.
Here are a few ways that you can ease your mind, relax and sleep in a strange space:
Sleep experts say the first night in any strange space is a recipe for no sleep. So much so, that sleep technicians who evaluate sleep behavior in individuals, disregard the first night of data because what they call “first night syndrome.” (Masako Tamaki, Brown University). To prepare for this, experts say try to arrive to your destination a day earlier.
“Since the condition seems to last for only one night, it might help to arrive two nights before any important events, such as a business presentation, Tamaki said.”
If arriving a day early just isn’t probable, there are ways that you can get to sleep and stay asleep.
Light prohibits sleep. It cues our brain that it’s time “rise and shine” (which is why sleep experts suggest to place digital devices that emit harsh blue light, far away from your bedside). For this reason, some suggest to call in advance and see if the hotel has black out shades, or perhaps when staying with relatives, bring a sleep mask.
If you can’t stand the thought of wearing a sleep aid to bed there are also….sleep sound machines. Shameless plug on behalf of ASTI and Sound of Sleep.com, the newly announced LectroFan Micro2 makes a great travel companion. It is small in size and produces soothing white noise, fan sounds and a couple surf sounds. The Micro2 is also Bluetooth enabled and doubles as a speaker. Just pair it with your smartphone to play your favorite tunes and other audio.
Above all else, remember to stick with your bedtime routine. As discussed in our last segment, having a bedtime routine is important because we are literally creatures of habit. Our bodily systems rely on consistent behaviors. If you are used to taking a warm shower before bed, do that while you travel. Make sure your room temperature is set at the same temperature you sleep with at home and bring your favorite pillow or sleep scent. Staying consistent with these activities away from home, will prompt your mind and body into sleep mode.
Sleep Travel Checklist (In Summary):
- If possible, call ahead and make arrangements (quiet room, blackout shades, away from elevator of stairs).
- Bring sleep aids (favorite pillow, sleep mask, lavender scented bath oil, etc…).
- Buy a sound machine to take with you.
- Be consistent about sleep prep behavior at home and on the road.