I was recently contacted by my friends over at Tuck to share some helpful sleeping tips with my fellow anxious travelers. What is Tuck? A community on a mission to help people sleep better – click here to learn more. Enjoy this awesome guest post written by one of their sleep experts, Sara. I hope it helps all of you sleep better on nights when it really counts! Happy travels 🙂
Travel is both exciting and stressful, and while it’s fun, it can interfere with good sleep habits. Staying up late packing or catching an early flight out of town can zap your sleep hours, leaving you frazzled and ill-prepared to handle the stresses of traveling. And if you’re already prone to anxiety while traveling, you’re going to have a hard time getting the rest you need to feel refreshed and ready to enjoy your trip.
Travel anxiety can cause problems with your sleep, keeping you up at night or causing you to wake early with worry or excitement. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, that can make travel anxiety worse, too. Of course, while you’re traveling, it can be tough to get enough rest, and traveling often comes with stress and anxiety.
How Anxiety Affects Sleep (and Vice Versa)
Anxiety and sleep go hand in hand. When you’re well rested, you can deal with anxiety better. And when you feel less anxious, you sleep better. But if you’re tired, you’re more likely to feel anxious, and if you feel anxious, you may have a harder time getting a good night’s sleep.
Berkeley research indicates that a lack of sleep can contribute to excessive worrying — and people who often worry too much are more vulnerable to developing sleep disorders. Of course, anxious worrying about a lack of sleep can also cause sleep loss.
How to Sleep Better With Travel Anxiety
If you’re feeling restless or anxious about upcoming travel, or find that you have a hard time getting a good night’s sleep because you’re too anxious about traveling, there’s hope. There are a number of things you can do to reduce your anxiety about sleep and travel and stay well rested while you’re traveling.
Prepare yourself for jet lag
If you’re traveling to another time zone, you will likely experience jet lag, which can make you feel excessively tired, and in turn, stressed about your energy level. You can reduce the impact of jet lag by adjusting your sleep and wake times to your destination’s time zone ahead of your trip. You should also plan ahead so that you’ll have time to take a short nap when you reach your destination if needed.
Pack ahead of time
Don’t wait until the night before you leave to start packing your bags. You’ll be stressed out and may stay up too late worrying about what you may have forgotten. You should gather your necessities and pack them early enough so that you can use the evening before you leave to get enough rest rather than feeling anxious about what you have or haven’t packed. Starting early will give you time to remember everything instead of staying up late scrambling.
Practice healthy sleep hygiene
Healthy sleep hygiene means practicing good sleep habits at home and on the road. For example, sticking to a regular routine, avoiding caffeine or heavy exercise before bed, avoiding screen time before bed, and sleeping in an environment that is cool, dark, and comfortable. Even if you’re in an unusual environment, you can do your best to follow your usual routine and create a healthy sleep environment.
Don’t stress about sleep
According to research, worrying about sleep can cause lost sleep. This is known as anticipatory anxiety. If you expect to have trouble sleeping, or are worried you won’t be able to get enough sleep, you may get yourself so worked up that you really can’t sleep. Instead, get to bed early and focus on creating a calming sleep environment.
Get out of bed if you can’t sleep
If you’re having trouble falling asleep, don’t force it. You may be thrown off by your travel schedule or the excitement and anxiety of travel. If you can’t get to sleep within 30 minutes or so, get out of bed and do something else that’s calming. Try reading, watching TV, or journaling about your travel experiences from the day.
Maintain your sleep routine
It’s tempting to stay up late and wake up early to experience as much as possible while you’re traveling, but be careful not to stretch yourself too thin. Sleeping in can also cause a problem, as oversleeping can make you feel groggy. Try to stick to your usual sleep routine. Sleep the same amount of hours as you do at home each night, even if you can’t sleep on the same schedule.
Build rest times into your itinerary
Traveling can really take it out of you, so you will likely need more time to rest and recharge while you travel. Schedule down times throughout your trip, such as an hour or two set aside to sit in a cafe, 20 minutes to take a nap, and of course, plenty of time each night to get a full night’s rest.
Choose a hotel where you can be comfortable
Be choosy about where you sleep, as a healthy sleeping environment will make it easier to get the sleep you need to face every travel day. It’s a good idea to read reviews before you book a hotel to find out what other guests think about the hotel’s comfort level. Look for reviews that say a hotel has comfortable mattresses and bedding, quiet rooms, plenty of pillow choices, and other amenities that make it easier to get restful sleep.
When you’re tired and busy with travel, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. And if you’re spending your days walking the streets as you explore a new city, you’re probably exercising plenty. But if you’re not stretching your legs very much, take some time to get exercise, as it can help you sleep better. Of course, be careful not to exercise in the hours just before sleeping, as doing so can make it hard for you to relax.
If you’re feeling anxious about travel, try to get your mind off of it before bed. Read a book before bed, listen to relaxing music, or meditate to help shift your mind into relaxation rather than stress about travel.
Practice deep breathing
Deep breathing is one of the best stress reduction techniques you can do. And you can do it anywhere, so it’s perfect for travel. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, especially before bed, practice deep breathing. It can help you relax, focus, and you may even drift off to sleep while you’re doing it.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck Sleep. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.