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5 Tricks for Better Sleep When You Travel

Master the art of sleeping in new places with a little planning ahead and preparedness.

Sep 13, 2019

Traveling for work? Or getting in that big trip abroad? No matter the reason you’re boarding a plane, you’re going to want to make the most of the days once you land, and quality of sleep has the biggest impact on your ability to function. “Sleep is the third pillar of health along with diet and exercise,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Michael J. Breus. Start planning for a good night’s rest on the airplane, then create the best possible “home away from home” where you’re lodging. Here are a couple tricks to swear by so you’re not a total walking zombie on your travels. 

1. Take a quick nap 

Sleeping on planes doesn’t happen for everyone—and that’s totally okay. If you’ve been up most of the night and need a quick rest once you’ve checked into your lodging, limit yourself to 20 minutes. According to, these quick naps “keep you in the lightest stage of non-REM sleep, making it easier for you to get up and go after your snooze session.” Sleep 30-60 minutes, and you’ll enter a deeper sleep where your brain waves slow down, making you groggy when you wake up.

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2. Try and sleep on the plane (but only if it's night)

The key to sleeping well while traveling is trying to stick to your nighttime routines and bedtime as closely as possible. If you’re taking a red-eye, do your best to set yourself up for quality sleep. Dress comfortably, and bring layers so that if your flight is extra cold or hot, you can add and remove as needed. If there’s a TV on the seat back in front of you, turn off the monitor to limit your blue light exposure, and consider bringing a sleep mask (we love our Mulberry Silk Eye Mask.) Bring some noise-cancelling headphones to block out any chatty neighbors or crying babies, and if possible, choose a seat that’s in a low-traffic area of the plane—as in, not near a bathroom.

If your flight is during the day, bring a book or some work to do and keep yourself entertained and productive, rather than lounging back, listening to music, and inevitably falling asleep. Your internal clock will thank you for pushing through.

3. Pick a room where you'll be secure

It’s natural to be on high-alert when you’re staying in an unfamiliar setting, especially if you’re traveling alone. Mitigate any anxiety by investing in a hotel or other lodging that’s in a safe area, and ideally one that has multiple security layers like a 24-7 front desk, elevators that activate with a key card, and deadbolts on doors. If you’re staying in an AirBnb, hostel, or other location where doors might not lock or an unfamiliar owner may have the key to your room, bring a portable door lock—even if your hosts are super-friendly, it’ll just give you more peace of mind while sleeping. 

If you’re staying in a hotel, opt for a room that’s not on the first floor and that’s away from the elevator. You’ll feel more secure, plus, staying in an area with less foot traffic will make for a quieter stay. 

4. Bring a bit of home with you 

Do you have a fan in your room at home? Live near the ocean? Do you like to bury your head in your pillow at night? Make a quick list of your bedtime rituals and what sounds and smells help you fall asleep, then try and bring as many of these as possible with you. Use an app like Calm to meditate to natural sounds like rain and wind rustling grass, or just turn on the ceiling fan before falling asleep for some ambient noise. Bring a couple pillowcases from home so the material on your face and the smell of your laundry feel familiar. And don’t forget your favorite bedtime tea or after-dinner snack; continuing the ritual in a new place will help you stick to your sleep routine.

5. Stay active, and eat well

Work dinners, dining out with friends, and just plain relaxing definitely make for some delicious evenings—but everything in moderation. Be especially careful to limit late-night snacking and drinking that can happen away from home: a couple drinks might help you fall asleep quickly, but you’re more likely to wake up during the night and have poorer quality sleep in general. If your hotel has a gym, try and stick to your exercise routine as best as possible so your body is at its typical level of tiredness at the end of the day. And if not? Long walks or renting a bike to explore can do the trick.

Written by Mallory Abreu

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