7 Tips To Get More Sleep When Traveling

April 18, 2019

Last Updated on August 14, 2020 by Candy Wafford

woman sleeping

As much as I love to travel, I haven’t resorted to sleeping on floors. And at this age, I don’t see that ever happening. If you’re young and your back can handle it, go for it! Regardless of where you sleep, it can tough to get enough sleep when traveling. So I’m sharing 7 tips to get more sleep when traveling.

My bed is one of my favorite places to be. I love my sheets and my pillow and I know where everything is. My sweet kitten often sleeps at my feet. But my job and my love of travel mean I often sleep in a bed other than my own. Seventy-four nights in 2018. Since I refuse to schlep my pillow on a plane and I can’t take my kitten with me, I have had to find ways to help me sleep better when traveling.

Sleeping well while traveling can be difficult. You’re in a strange place, and in a strange bed with new noises and lights shining where they shouldn’t be. Traveling in a different time zone complicates the situation even further. Being a light sleeper like me makes it even more challenging.

I know I’m not the only person out there that has trouble sleeping away from home so here are seven of my favorite strategies and products that help me get more zzz’s while on the road.

1) Temperature

Turn the thermostat down! Studies suggest the optimal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees F. I tend to start out cool and then get warm as the evening goes on (thanks middle age). I generally set the thermostat in my hotel room no higher than 68 degrees F. Any warmer than that and I’m wrestling with the sheets at 3 AM.

sunlight filtering through curtains

I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to.” Anthony Bourdain

I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to.” Anthony Bourdain

2) Light

Block out as much light as possible to create an environment that is more conducive to sleeping. I always pull the hotel blackout curtains closed so that there isn’t a sliver of light coming through. I’ve even resorted to using a hair clip to close uncooperative curtains. I like to sleep in a dark room but if you prefer some light, I suggest traveling with a small nightlight. This also helps when navigating a strange room in the middle of the night.

3) Sound

I find some white noise helps me sleep better if I have a lot on my mind. Turning the thermostat to fan only helps create some noise to help distract me from my thoughts. However, there are HVAC systems out there that make a ridiculous amount of noise making it impossible to sleep. Those are long nights. There are also lots of apps out there that play white noise. The free version of the Calm app has some nice options including rain and ocean sounds

If noise is a big distraction for you, I suggest requesting a room away from the elevators and ice machines in the hotel. I stayed at a hotel in Detroit where the elevator system sounded like the smoke monster from Lost. And it’s amazing how loud an ice machine sounds in the middle of the night. You may have to walk further to get to your room, but the peace and quiet will make the extra steps worthwhile.

4) Melatonin

Generally, I don’t have any issues falling asleep. When I do find myself having trouble nodding off, melatonin is a great supplement. I always travel with it. I also pop one whenever I’m on a red-eye flight to help me fall asleep more easily and quickly. Melatonin is a hormone in our bodies that helps us sleep and increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less melatonin as we age (again, thanks middle age). When needed, I take a small dose and never feel groggy in the morning.

5) Magnesium

Magnesium also plays a role in sleep and I use this magnesium spray every night whether I’m traveling or not. Since using it, I find the quality of my sleep has improved greatly. I spray a few pumps worth to the tops or backs of my thighs and rub it in about 30-60 minutes before I want to go to sleep. Should I forget to apply it, I notice a huge difference in sleep. I decant a small spray bottle full and it’s always in my travel bag.

3 AM Wake-up

I tend to have a bit of a monkey mind. Which means I often struggle with waking up in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling back asleep. When this happens at home, I often move to another room where I can watch a little TV or read until I doze back off. Since this usually is not an option when I’m traveling I have found a few things that help.

6) Meditation

I try and meditate in the morning as I find it helps me get focused for the day ahead. Meditation is also helpful when I’m wide-eyed in the wee hours of the morning. Often just a few deep, focused breathes and I’m back to sleep.

woman meditating in sunlight

When a few deep breathes doesn’t work, I do a more structured meditation involving counting inhales and exhales. Inhale – one, exhale – one, inhale – two, exhale – two. Sounds simple, right? But, if you start thinking of something, you have to start back at one. Kind of a mindfulness version of counting sheep. When I use this technique, I find I have to start over a few times but rarely make it past a count of five.

7) Dream Lotion

I bought this Organica Dream Lotion for my daughter last year to help her when she has trouble falling asleep. Isn’t Dream Lotion a great name for a product? I swiped a sample from her recently and when I’ve used it, I’ve fallen asleep quickly and slept soundly. It contains a mix of essential oils, including lavender which is known to have relaxing properties. Lush makes a similar product and both can be easily decanted to a smaller container for travel.

What strategies and/or products help you sleep better when traveling?

More about Candy Wafford

Candy Wafford is a US-based travel blogger and while she travels frequently for her job, she is happiest when traveling for pleasure. Preferably strolling along a cobblestoned street with an ice cream cone in her hand.

    1. Great info and very helpful. Since I can never get a good sleep on a plane, trying to reset once I arrive is always my goal. thanks!

      1. I sleep on a plane, but it’s not good quality! Red-eyes are especially difficult.

    1. I’m usually so exhausted that I sleep. I’m a sleeper anyway so there’s also that.

      1. I rarely have trouble falling asleep. But I’m always looking for ways to improve the quality of my sleep.

    1. Annnnd… pinning this! It’s always when I’m tired, grumpy because I can’t sleep, fuzzy because I’m so tired, that I can’t remember these great ideas to help me out. Thanks!

      1. Thanks! Being tired makes functioning so much more difficult, doesn’t it!?

    1. I want some dream lotion, it sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip about melatonin, I must look out for some. I use earplugs, which I hate, but sometimes needs must. Another tip for getting back to sleep at 3am is to start thinking of girls names with each letter of the alphabet and when you get stuck you just seem to fall asleep.

      1. I love the girls name game! I’ll have to try that. I also use earplugs on overnight flights – and I hate them too!

    1. Thanks for your post. It is TOUGH to sleep well while traveling. I always miss my bed/pillows so much!

      1. I would love to take my pillow with me, but it’s just not practical when flying. 🙂

    1. This post was so helpful – I had NO idea about magnesium and the dream lotion – and I thought I’d read everything about how to sleep better (since I don’t sleep well generally, and particularly while traveling). Thank you!

      1. Definitely get some magnesium spray! It has improved the quality of my sleep so much. I can always tell if I have forgotten to use it.

      1. Please do! I give it as gifts all the time. It’s also supposed to be great for anxiety and pain too.

    1. Great tips. I take magnesium powder most nights as it has a great effect in the morning on getting things shifted (if you get my meaning ;-)). And also I have found the Vipassna meditation helpful focusing specifically on the breath sensation. My third way is to arm myself with earphones and Omharmonics’ binaural beats meditation music. It’s an instantaneous sleep aid.

    1. Great post! I am also a terrible sleeper when traveling. Blackout blinds really are the best and I’m grateful they exist. That part where you said the elevator sounded like the smoke monster from lost made me laugh so hard!

    1. Very helpful tips going to try these even when I’m not travelling. One tip I heard is to take a deep breath in through your nose count to 4, then hold for 8 counts then breath out for 7 counts. Works for me sometimes when I can stop my mind going lol.

    1. I have that 3 am wake up issue also, but not just when I travel. Luckily I can usually fall asleep. You have some good tips here for when I can’t. And as for the cold, we don’t heat our bedroom overnight, so in the winter, it’s not a problem.

      1. Thanks! Hats off to you – I don’t think I could do night shift!

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