Sleeping away from home during the holidays?

The holiday season is upon us!  It’s a busy time, a great time, and a time when many of us are traveling to see family and friends.  It’s almost a given than travel is going to disrupt your sleep – particularly if you are changing schedules and time zones.  Sleep loves routine: getting up and going to bed at the same time, every day, is often cited as the first step to take to improve your sleep.  But that recommendation is hard enough to follow when we are at home on a regular schedule.  It is nearly impossible to maintain when we are traveling, sleeping in new or unfamiliar places, and changing our daily routine.  Add to that the stress that can come from travel and holiday preparations, and you’ve got a recipe for bad sleep.

Tired, cranky and sleep deprived is no way to spend the holidays!  So if you are anticipating travel, whether by plane, train, automobile or over the river and through the woods to get to grandma, here are a few tips that might help you feel a little more rested.

  • Try to take your pillow with you. This can be a little challenging if you are on a plane (although next time you are in an airport look around and see how many people are carrying their pillow). Having a pillow you are used to, particularly one that is comfortable and supportive, eliminates the possibility of sleeping with a pillow that will keep you tossing and turning all night.
  • Traveling across time zones? It is easier to travel across time zones to the west than the other way around.  When you travel toward the west, you are asking your body to stay up a little later than you normally would.  When traveling to the east, it is more challenging to stay close to your schedule – it is much more difficult to ask our bodies to go to bed and wake up earlier than we are used to doing!  If you are traveling across more than two time zones, try and take a few days before you travel to adjust your sleeping time to the time zone where you are traveling.
  • Talk to your hosts if you are staying in someone’s home. Ask about the daily routine.  If you are a lark and they are night owls (or the other way around), it’s good to know at the start.  And if you are the host, talk about schedules up front.  Everyone will be miserable after a day or two of trying to stay up late or get up early!
  • Try aromatherapy to help you relax at bedtime. Certain scents, like lavender, have been shown to help promote relaxation and help you fall asleep.  There are aromatherapy products that are easy to travel with.  Look for pillow sprays, sachets and liners or lotions that you rub on pulse points.  Avoid using candles, though.  It can be dangerous to fall asleep with an open flame near your bed!