Filling up your itinerary is a great way to make the most out of any trip, but to fully enjoy your waking moments, it’s worth knowing how (and when) to properly rest. Here, a few ways to overcome common challenges on the road, like jet lag and disruptive noise, plus tips for better napping in transit and recommendations for useful gear we like taking on our own exploits.
3 Common Challenges
Noise: A non-negotiable rule for me is to always, always travel with ear plugs. These Hearos ones are soft enough to wear just about every night – but still make chatty plane neighbors, loud street traffic, and rowdy hotel guests much more bearable. If you need double reinforcement, plug noise-canceling headphones into a white noise app like my personal favorite, Relax Melodies Premium. And rest assured: The headphones don’t have to cost you a fortune. This nifty foldable pair from Sennheiser are just $71.
Temperature: Cooler environments are more conducive to sleep. Though personal preferences vary greatly – as anyone who’s ever had office mates knows – the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests setting the thermostat, when there is one, somewhere between 54 and 75 Fahrenheit. For train and especially air travel, you’ll want to bring your own blankets and sweaters. Why? Airplane blankets aren’t laundered very often and, on some airlines, now cost extra.
Unfamiliar Surroundings: Have trouble sleeping in new beds? You might subconsciously be on alert because you’re in a new environment. Put yourself at ease by winding down and mimicking your typical bedtime routine as closely as possible – washing up, a little reading, listening to a specific (and relaxing) playlist, writing in your diary.
Getting Over Jet Lag
Having trouble sleeping through the night? Whether you’re home or abroad, the same guidelines to good sleeping habits apply: no caffeine or alcohol before bedtime, and no adrenaline-pumping exercise. (Light exercise early in the day is fine, to help expend some energy.) Experts also suggest staying up until 10pm without napping, but if you must close your eyes, do it in short spurts. Research shows that long naps and REM deep sleep do not help your energy levels during the day; what’s recommended instead is 20-30 mins.
Napping Better on the Plane and the Train
Getting comfortable on planes and trains is like staying warm in the winter. At some point, you just have to stop caring about looking cool and spring for a neck pillow. Favorites include the relatively chic Muji’s microbead neck cushion and the super supportive Embrace sleep collar. More recently, many have tried the funky-looking TravelRest inflatable pillow, and our editor even found a tablet stand that doubles as a bean bag pillow. Traveling as a duo? Use your companion as support – refer to the clever photo above for inspiration.
It’s easy to forget about your toes when you’re bundling up, but freezing feet have woken us up more times than we’d like. If you’re self-conscious about taking off your shoes and potential odors, bring along a fresh pair of thick socks to slip on right before you go to sleep. Speaking of which, some fliers prefer storing their carry-on overhead for more legroom, but if you’re more vertically challenged, a bag on the floor can also be a great footrest.
Just as good sleep hygiene at home means not reading, working, or watching TV in bed, avoid reclining your seat on planes and trains until you’re ready to nap. The idea is to condition your body to recognize these angled positions as resting time. Alternatively, if a neck pillow or lack thereof isn’t doing the trick or if poor lumbar support is uncomfortable, try leaning over and resting your head on the tray in front of you and use blankets or folded sweaters for support.
During flights, low humidity means scratchy dry throats. Drink some water – but not so much so that you’ll be running to the bathroom. And before selecting a seat, check where the engines are. Rows next to and right around them tend to be louder.
One more train tip: You won’t feel the train pull in the way you feel the plane touch down. If you’re worried about oversleeping your stop, ask the conductor for an approximate time of arrival, then set an alarm on your phone 15 minutes before that time.
Sweet Dreaming at the Hotel
As soon as you book your hotel room, request a quieter room away from the elevators. If you tend to have more serious neck problems, it’s also worth inquiring about pillow options or bringing extra neck support. (The above bead pillow from Muji works great in bed, since its shape is flexible.)
For an uninterrupted slumber, ask the front desk to hold your calls upon checking in, even if you aren’t expecting any – the only thing getting woken up by a friend is getting woken up by a wrong number! Also turn off or, better yet, unplug the alarm clock in the room.
[Photo: Stock xChange]