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Seven strategies for getting to sleep while travelling


Travelling can be exciting - sometimes too busy and exciting to sleep well. And if you're travelling over a long distance, your sleep schedule can be completely thrown off. But when you're travelling, you need your energy, and it's important to get enough sleep so you're maintaining good health and immunity. Use these strategies to get the best sleep you can while on the go.


  • Plan ahead. If you're travelling to a new time zone, your circadian rhythm will be thrown off, which is commonly known as jet lag. But if you plan ahead and gradually adjust your sleep times to match or at least get close to the time zone of your destination, it will be a much easier transition. Over a week or two, bump your sleep and wake times by 10 to 15 minutes in the direction of the new time zone until you've gotten close to or reached the sleep schedule you're likely to keep when you get there.


  • Get light exposure. When you get to your destination, be ready to spend some time outside. Getting exposed to sunlight during the daytime (even if it goes against what your normal schedule is) can help you adjust and feel more alert. That's because your circadian rhythm relies on exposure to light as a powerful cue that it's daytime and time to be awake. So when it's dark and you've been exposed to light during the day, you'll have an easier time getting to sleep. If it's not sunny enough to make a difference, consider using light therapy.


  • Rest if you must, but not too much. While a quick nap can help if you're feeling completely knocked out on arrival, be careful to make it brief, ideally under 30 minutes and definitely not within a few hours of bedtime.



  • Get active. Another important cue is activity, so start following the local activity times to adjust easier. Wake up when the locals do, eat meals around the same time, and start moving early in the day for the time zone in your destination. Again, you can take a brief nap during the day if you need to catch up, but don't sleep in and miss out on morning alertness.


  • Plan activities strategically. While you should be active, that doesn't mean you should go, say, mountain climbing, immediately after you arrive. Expect to be a little worn out when you reach your destination, even if you're not travelling extremely far. Plan easier activities earlier in your trip and work your way up to more challenging ones once you've adjusted and recharged better.


  • Make your sleep environment healthy. Where you're sleeping is as important as how you're sleeping. Consider whether you're sleeping in a room that's quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. You might need to take advantage of blackout curtains, or even use a white noise app on your phone. Consider bringing an eye mask to block out light, too, and plan to set the thermostat a little lower so you're sleeping cool.


  • Pack familiar things. While it might be too much to bring a large pillow from home, you could possibly pack your pillowcase, a small blanket, or other sleep item from home to make yourself feel more secure and at home wherever you are.


Though sleep can sometimes be a challenge while travelling, there are steps you can take to make it easier and return home feeling refreshed and recharged from your trip. Use the tips above to travel and sleep healthy no matter where you are.


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Published: 2 July 2019

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