If it’s been a while since you’ve traveled, a refresher on better sleep and staying healthy will make your vacation a whole lot more fun
For most of us, travel has been put on hold for far too long. But there’s a whole lot of fun days ahead – and we want those days to be as healthy as possible for you and your family. When it comes to travel, sleep is often the first sacrifice, which can negatively impact your immune system. Not something we want to mess with after living with COVID for a year, right?
With a few adjustments, to your daily (and nightly) habits, travel can be safe and fun again.
How to relax (and possibly sleep) better at the airport
When it comes to sleep and travel, space is a luxury – and a necessity. While the price of first-class may be out of reach, there’s a lot to be said for finding a place to stretch out.
- Secure your stuff. Feeling safe is priority number one for sleep. If there’s a place to lock your belongings, use it. If not, make sure your money, credit cards, and passport are tucked inside your shirt where it would be hard for someone to remove without waking you.
- Stretch it out. If you’re flight’s delayed, chances are you aren’t relaxed. Try some yoga or simple stretches to elongate your spine and release the tension. If it helps, put on your headphones and let your favorite tunes relax you while you stretch.
- Change your clothes. Slip into loose clothing that will allow you to move freely (and make it easier to nap). You might sleep hot at home, but long pants, a sweater, and socks will keep you warm in a cool airport.
- Make a pillow. Your head needs a soft place to rest so roll up a jacket or scarf. Of course, you’ll want to wipe down the chair before laying down on it. And remember to keep your mask in place, even when you’re sleeping.
How to relax while you’re in the air
If you’re planning to travel across time zones, consider how you’ll handle jet leg before you leave home. If you’re going west to east, expect jet lag to be worse. But there are non-medicinal ways to reduce sleep disruption. Start by pushing back your bedtime about 6 days before you leave – just 15 minutes will do it. Then 3 days out, push it back ½ hour.
When you board the plane, adjust your watch, laptop, and cellphone and start living the new time zone right away.
While in the air:
- Try not to nap. A nap can thwart your body’s need for a longer sleep that night. If you must sleep, limit yourself to 25 minutes.
- Stay hydrated with water. Not coffee, alcoholic beverages or soda drinks. Arriving dehydrated will make you feel lousy and it will also make it hard for your body to adjust to the new rhythm.
- If you must nap when you arrive. Limit your nap to 90 minutes, long enough to recharge the batteries but not so long you won’t be able to sleep later.
Travel accessories that double as sleep aides
For most of us, there’s no place like home when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep and there’s no denying airplane seats are the polar opposite of comfortable. Add in the noise from other passengers or announcements and getting sleep on a plane feels like a herculean task. Talk about a recipe for grumpy!
Packing a few sleep accessories can relieve some of the nightmares of airplane travel and ensure you arrive well-rested and ready for your vacation.
- Wear warm socks. Planes can be ridiculously hot or cold – but never in between. Pack or wear socks that will keep you warm (or can be removed to help you cool down).
- Silk sleeping bag liner. Most planes aren’t equipped with blankets – not that we’d use them in a COVID world anyway. A sleeping bag liner is (basically) a human-sized pillowcase. They’re washable, durable and, as an added bonus, they’re a sign that you’re on a serious mission to sleep.
- Eye mask. Even if you don’t sleep with an eye mask at home, pack one for travel. The lack of light on your eyelids will help you relax into a deeper sleep. Since you’ll have to keep your face mask on for sleeping, it might feel too restrictive to wear two masks so try this tip at home first to assess your comfort level.
- Noise canceling headphones. From fellow passengers talking too loudly to flight attendants passing out drinks to random announcements, planes are noisy. Pack a pair of noise-canceling headphones and head to your sleep zone.
- Neck pillow. This is a must-have in our books. Carrying a pillow through the airport might make you feel like a kid on the way to summer camp but this little bundle of squish can make ANY trip bearable.
- Reusable water bottle. Remember when they allowed liquids through airport security and we weren’t required to purchase a $4 bottle of water in addition to our $5.50 double mocha frappuccino extra whip? Stash an empty bottle in your carry on, prance through security and head for the nearest water fountain.
- Vaseline. This carry-on won’t help you sleep but it will keep you healthy. Flight attendants use this trick to stay healthy: dab a little on the inside of your nostrils to keep out germs that hang out in planes. It’s good for your lips too.
Reserve rest & relaxation at your hotel
If a quiet night is a priority for you when you travel, speak up when booking your room. You’re the expert on what helps you relax and get the sleep you need. If you’re going to Vegas, skip to the next section – you won’t be sleeping anyway…
- Ask for a quiet room. Request a room away from the elevator, stairs and ice machine.
- Don’t follow the sun. If you’re crossing time zones, request a room on the west side of the hotel to avoid a sunrise wake-up call.
- Update your profile online. Some chains allow priority customers to enter personal information that will help the hotel serve you better when you arrive.
- Pack a sleep kit. Eyeshades, meditation music, aromatherapy sprays (lavender or chamomile) and a night light so you don’t wake yourself up fully if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Your home away from home, sleep spa…
- Try a bedtime shower or bath. Studies show that raising the body temperature (with hot water) and lowering it quickly (with room temperature air) an hour before bed relaxes your muscles and prepares your body for sleep.
- Clip the drapes shut. Furnace and air vents are often directly below the curtains. Clipping them prevents them from separating during the night and letting the early morning sun in.
- Check the thermostat. Sleep can be disrupted if the room is warmer than 65° F or colder than 54° F.
- Check the clock. The alarm may still be set from the last guest.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Smart travel tips from the Property Brothers
- Is driving tired as dangerous as driving drunk?
- Learn the art of napping and how to get the best nap of your life