My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling: Sleep on the Road

Sleep, We Don't Get Enough Of It... 

Many of us run through life overworked and sleep-deprived. Chronic lack of sleep compromises immunity, increases risk of high blood pressure, exacerbates stress, limits concentration and focus and often leads to overeating and weight gain.  When our immune systems are chronically compromised we're at higher risk of viral and bacterial infections and also many types of cancer.  Although vacation and travel are often means for recharging and rejuvenation, getting adequate sleep can prove even more challenging due to unfamiliarity with a new location and jet lag.  Transportation like overnight buses, trains and planes generally don't provide conditions for an adequate night's sleep.  

Photo Cred: Jay Harrison

Photo Cred: Jay Harrison

Whether you're traveling for a week or are a full-time digital nomad, it's important to practice appropriate sleep hygiene measures:

–Avoid screens (phone, computer, t.v.) at least 1 hour before bedtime

–Make sure the room is cool and dark (an eye mask can help with this)

-Block out intermittent ambient noise with ear plugs.

–Sprinkle drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow

–Avoid eating a heavy meal right before bed

–Reduce alcohol intake

-Try to maintain a regular bed-time and wake-time

–Limit bedroom activities to sleep and sex

–Avoid caffeine after 2pm

Even if you're a sleep hygiene superstar, jet lag can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.  It takes the body a full day to adjust to just one time-zone change, which explains why we generally suffer for a few days after skipping across multiple time-zones.  However, there are some things you can do to help your body and mind make a quicker adjustment:

-Start to adjust your schedule before you leave.  This is easier to do when you're traveling from east-to-west.  In this case, wake up and go to bed an hour earlier each day a few days before your trip.  

-Manipulating your light exposure once you've reached your destination may be the most effective way to combat jet lag.  If you're traveling east, you'll want to seek out morning light (natural sunlight) and avoid late afternoon light to help your body adjust to the earlier time zone.  If you're traveling west, do the opposite.  There is an app called Entrain that can help with this. 

-5 mg of melatonin in the early evening can help you adjust to a new timezone as well, but consult with your healthcare provider before starting new medications.  

-If you're traveling for 3 days or less, stick to your home routine/schedule. 

-Taking a warm bath before bed or practicing deep breathing exercises/meditation can also help you wind down after a stressful day of travel.  I love listening to the bedtime guided meditations on the app Insight Timer. 

For more tips on ensuring the best night's sleep at home or on the road, read Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (of the Huffington Post).  

Follow my other posts in the Healthy Travel series:

1. My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling

2. My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling: Nutrition on the Road

3. My Top Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling: Exercise on the Road