Updated at: 11-03-2022 - By: Jane Brody

Traveling is one of the greatest pleasures in life for many individuals. In certain cases, it’s a vital aspect of their job description. Whatever the reason for traveling, a good night’s rest can help you get the most out of your time away.

Traveling can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep, despite the necessity of rest. Many factors might contribute to a lack of sleep on a vacation, but there are tangible steps you can take to enhance both your sleep while in transit and the rest of your trip.

How Can Travel Disrupt Your Sleep?

Traveling can open you up to new and interesting experiences, but it can also have its drawbacks. It’s common for people to have trouble sleeping while traveling, which makes it more difficult to take pleasure in their surroundings.

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Travel Fatigue

Traveling can be stressful on the body and mind, which can contribute to exhaustion. Exhaustion, headaches, insomnia, and other symptoms are all signs of travel weariness.

Travel exhaustion can be caused by a variety of factors:

  • Reluctance to travel by plane, train, automobile, etc.
  • Worry that anything will go wrong during a vacation.
  • Having to worry about things like packing, getting to your destination on time, and other such issues.
  • Getting motion ill.
  • Long days spent on the road.
  • Itinerary detours or interruptions.
  • Travel insomnia, such as being unable to fall asleep in an upright position on an aircraft, train, or automobile while traveling.
  • Airplane cabins that are pressurized can cause dehydration, bloating, constipation, and respiratory tract infections.
  • Increased usage of alcoholic beverages and caffeinated beverages while traveling.
  • Leg edema, stiffness, and decreased physical activity might result from prolonged sitting.

If you’re traveling for any length of time, you’re more likely to suffer from travel tiredness.

Jet Lag

If you fly across three or more time zones, you may suffer from jet lag, a temporary sleep problem. A person’s circadian rhythm is still set to their home time zone when they arrive, causing an inconsistency with the time zone they are visiting.

Jet lag’s most common symptom is difficulty sleeping. Other symptoms include reduced physical or mental performance, daytime drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, and general malaise.

A person’s circadian rhythm may take up to several weeks to adjust to the local time zone after experiencing jet lag. When flying east and across multiple time zones, jet lag tends to be more severe.

Schedule Changes

It is possible to have sleep issues even if you avoid jet lag by changing your daily routine and your bedtime. It may be more difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep if the asleep regimen is disrupted.

It’s normal for people to want to pack as much as possible into their days, especially whether they’re away on vacation or on business. This could result in overstimulation and/or a lack of sleep time.

New or Uncomfortable Sleep Settings

Numerous studies have shown that the first night in a new place is the worst for sleep quality. A constant “first-night effect” was observed by researchers in sleep clinics.

This appears to be a widespread phenomenon, not just in sleep clinics. According to more recent studies, even in a relaxing environment like a spa resort, the first night’s sleep quality was diminished. There are some specialists who feel this is an evolutionary survival mechanism that keeps a portion of the brain engaged while sleeping in an unfamiliar environment.

Travelers should be aware that their sleep patterns may not always improve after the first night. It may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep if your lodgings have an uncomfortable mattress or excessive light or noise.

Changes to Diet and Exercise Routines

As a traveler, you may experience sleep disturbances due to a lack of familiarity with your own bedtime pattern.

It is possible that travelers’ sleep patterns will be disrupted by their tendency to consume more alcohol or eat heavier meals than usual. When you’re on the road, it’s possible to lessen or modify your regular workout routine, which can help you sleep better.

What Are the Consequences of Disrupted Travel During Sleep?

Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Sleep deprivation can impair your judgment, produce drowsiness, increase anger, and sap your stamina. When driving, sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of an accident, which can be extremely worrisome.

Trips are harmed as a result of these repercussions. Business travelers, athletes, and vacationers all suffer if they don’t get enough shut-eye each night.

In most cases, sleep difficulties caused by travel are temporary, but for those who travel frequently or who are otherwise at risk for sleep issues, they can become chronic.

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Vacation Travel

Many families choose to travel during the summer months. Travel demand in the United States is soaring as COVID restrictions are eased around the country, bringing it back to pre-pandemic levels. Over two-thirds of American adults are now comfortable returning to their regular schedule, and a whopping 62 percent are now confident enough to go on a vacation! As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the U.S. travel economy lost $645 billion.

Thousands of airline workers were laid off during the pandemic, so airports might be feeling more chaotic than you recall. Some flights have been postponed or canceled due to wildfires and extreme weather in the West, as well as in other parts of America.

Traveling with young children can be exceptionally stressful, especially if you’re on vacation. The following advice can help alleviate some of the tension of this journey.

Combating Vacation Travel Stress

  • Even if your vacation plans are delayed, it’s critical that you maintain a regular sleep routine for your children while on the road.
  • Altitude can intensify the effects of alcohol and make it more difficult to overcome travel fatigue or jet lag, so don’t give in to the temptation of a glass of wine or a beer during your journey.
  • If you’re planning a trip to a region prone to wildfires when they’re active, be sure to take the required precautions to avoid having your sleep disturbed by airborne toxins. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the room where you intend to sleep.
  • For this trip, plan on spending longer at the airport than normal. Summer vacationers are dealing with long lines and more delays as a result of a jump in demand for travel following the outbreak of the epidemic. To ensure that you get enough sleep after your trip, be sure to budget for a few extra hours of sleep and make a plan for when you get there.

How to Sleep Better When Traveling

Whatever the reason for your trip is, sleeping well can make it more productive and pleasurable for you. Fortunately, there are numerous things you can do both before and during your trip to minimize the likelihood of sleep interruptions.

Minimizing Pre-Travel Stress

In the days leading up to a trip, anxiety can have a negative impact on both sleep and mental well-being. Plan ahead of time so that you don’t have to rush to pack, make an itinerary, or travel to the airport at the last minute.

Sleeping on Planes, Trains, and Buses

When it comes to flying, trains, and buses, some people can fall asleep with ease while others struggle mightily.

If you have trouble sleeping in a moving vehicle, don’t make vacation plans that rely on it. If you can’t get a decent night’s sleep on a redeye aircraft or overnight train, it could backfire.

Make yourself as comfortable as possible if you find yourself needing a nap on a plane, train or bus.

  • Dress comfortably, with loose-fitting, breathable clothing and a warm layer to keep you warm if the weather turns.
  • It has been established that sleeping on your back increases both the amount and quality of your sleep.
  • Make use of headphones or earplugs, as well as a sleep mask or jacket to shield your eyes from the outside world.
  • Travel pillows and tiny bags of clothing can be used to prop up your head as you sleep.

If you can, try to avoid traveling during the busiest times of the day when there will be less noise and more room for you to stretch out and sleep.

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Preventing and Overcoming Travel Fatigue

After a long day on the road, relaxation is essential to regaining your energy. You don’t want to overschedule yourself in the first few days of your trip, so make sure you have enough time to sleep and relax.

Drink water before, during, and after your trip day to keep yourself hydrated and avoid dehydration. Because you could be exposed to germs on the plane, make sure you wash your hands frequently or use a sanitizing gel. This is especially true while traveling by plane since the increased altitude increases your risk of contracting a respiratory disease.

Practicing Healthy Habits

A vacation is a time for indulgence, but if you can stick to some good practices as much as possible, your vacation will be more enjoyable.

  • Eat wisely: Avoid big meals on days of travel when it is more difficult to be physically active and instead stick to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation: Caffeine and alcohol might keep you awake at night if consumed too late in the day or at the wrong time of day.
  • Get daily exercise: Every day, take a walk or engage in any other form of physical activity that is meaningful to you.
  • Utilize relaxation techniques: Many people find it simpler to fall asleep if they practice deep breathing or mindfulness meditation.

Dealing With Jet Lag

Getting over jet lag requires adjusting your circadian cycle to the new time zone. While natural light and melatonin supplementation may help, correct timing is essential to avoid further desynchronizing your internal clock.

Jet Lag Rooster or the Timeshifter app can help you set a regimen for sleep, light exposure, and taking melatonin that can lessen the effects of jet lag.

What Travel Accessories Can Help With Sleep?

Depending on your budget, there are a variety of tools and accessories that can help you obtain a good night’s sleep while on the road:

  • Travel pillows can be either small and portable or large and inflatable.
  • Asleep mask is required.
  • Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
  • Comfy clothing, such as pajamas.
  • Creates white noise with a computer program or app
  • A meditation app or audio recording is available.
  • To keep yourself hydrated, you’ll need a water bottle.
  • Carry-on snacks that are both nutritious and convenient.
  • Avoid itchy sheets with a sleeping bag liner.

Can Sleeping Pills Help With Sleep While Traveling?

Prescription pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medications, and nutritional supplements can all be used as sleeping aids. While most formulations make you feel drowsy, they may assist you in sleep while traveling or once you arrive at your destination.

It’s crucial to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using sleep aids. They can cause a large amount of drowsiness, especially if you’re driving, which can be dangerous. Sedatives may keep you seated for too long on long-distance flights, increasing the risk of blood clots.

As a result of taking sleep aids, your thinking and reaction time may be affected the following day. Sleep aids can cause drowsiness, which can lead to falls and other accidents.

It’s advisable to chat to your doctor about the benefits and risks of sleeping pills so that you can determine which type of sleeping pills are right for you.

Should You Take Naps When Traveling?

If you’re low on sleep while on the road, naps can be restorative, but it’s crucial not to overdo it. You may wake up even more groggy if you take a long snooze. Long afternoon or nighttime snoozes might potentially disrupt your sleep cycle.

If you want to get the most out of naps while minimizing the risks, limit your snooze time to 30-60 minutes at a time. The optimal time to take a nap is usually right after lunch, and naps later in the day should be avoided.

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6 Tips for Better Sleep When You Travel

Traveling to a new place might disrupt your sleep schedule, even when it’s for pleasure.

Our bodies have a natural sleep cycle that runs from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for most of us. Charlene Gamaldo, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, explains that this is known as your “circadian window.” There is a significant impact on your circadian rhythms while traveling across multiple time zones.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, here are some pointers for getting a good night’s sleep while on the road.

Sleep strategically.

Three days before your trip, start going to bed an hour sooner (or later, depending on the time of year) than usual. The second night, add an additional hour, and the third night, add an additional hour. According to Gamaldo, your body needs one day to acclimate to each time zone, so making travel arrangements ahead of time can make the process go more smoothly.

Go with the local flow (usually).

Try to adjust to the local time when you arrive. In the middle of the day, if people are awake, you want to land when people are awake, too. You should get plenty of rest on the plane, she advises. Staying awake on the plane and getting some shut-eye when you arrive at your destination at night is recommended when flying at night.

Abide by the two-day rule.

“Try to stick to your own schedule if you’re only going to be staying for a couple of days.” “Come home when your body gets used to it,” she says. If this is the case, she proposes that you request that any commitments or meetings take place as close as feasible to your peak home awake hours.

Let there be light.

Gamaldo recommends bringing sunglasses with you if your aircraft lands early in the morning as you go east. Maximize your exposure to light in the late morning and early afternoon, when your circadian rhythms are closest to those of your destination.

At your destination, she continues, “the idea is to re-calibrate the clock so that it is closer to bedtime” Make careful to get some light exposure in the early evening when going westward. Go for a walk or eat outside if the weather permits so that you can push your pace a little later.

Move your body.

Gamaldo recommends taking a warm shower and going for a brisk walk outside to wake up your body and make it ready for the day. Causing your circadian cycle to speed up, she explains, is as simple as raising your core body temperature.

Take melatonin.

In the two hours leading up to bedtime, your body’s natural levels of the hormone melatonin rise. If you’re traveling, your body might require a little nudge. Up to ten milligrams of melatonin is available as a nonprescription sleep aid.

It aids in the production of natural melatonin when your schedule is out of whack. However, Gamaldo warns that melatonin is not a magic bullet for jet lag. Light exposure during the day appears to be more successful at resetting your internal clock, according to research.

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