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Eat, Sleep, Travel

Strategies to help you sleep better when traveling

Love travel but hate the jetlag and sleep struggles a different bed every night brings? Relax, Pigeon, you don't have to give up traveling to protect your sleep. I recently caught up with Dr. Breus, The Sleep Doctor, and his suggestions  will transform you from a road-weary traveler to one who's energized and ready for adventure.

Reserve rest & relaxation

Dr. Breus"Most hotels are not set up to deliver a better night's sleep," says Dr. Michael J. Breus, PhD. "Being able to relax in an unfamiliar environment begins at home when you book your hotel room."




  • Ask for a quiet room - Request a room away from the elevator, stairs and ice machine.
  • Don't follow the sun - If you're crossing time zones, request a room on the west side of the hotel to avoid a sunrise wake-up call.
  • Update your profile online - Some chains allow priority customers to enter personal information that will help the hotel serve you better when you arrive.

First class luxury

When it comes to sleep and travel, space is a luxury - and a necessity. While the price dump of first class may be hard to swallow, there's a lot to be said for finding a place to stretch out. Use Dr. Breus' tips if you're stuck between delays and need to catch some zzz's.

  • First Class LuxurySecure your stuff - Feeling safe is priority number one for sleep. If there's a place to lock your belongings, use it. If not, make sure your money, credit cards and passport are tucked inside your shirt where it would be hard for someone to remove without waking you.
  • Stretch it out - If you're flight's delayed, chances are you aren't relaxed. Yoga or some simple stretches that elongate your muscles will help release the tension. If it helps, put on your headphones and let your favorite tunes lull you.
  • Change your clothes - Slip into loose clothing that will let you move freely (and make it easier to nap).
  • Make a pillow - Your head needs a soft place to rest. It's as simple as that.

Last longer in bed

Travel quickly across time zones and jetlag becomes an unwelcome and unavoidable travel partner. And if you're going west to east, expect jet lag to be worse. But there are non-medicinal ways to reduce sleep disruption, says Dr. Breus.

Last Longer in BedStart by pushing back your bedtime about 6 days before you leave - just 15 minutes will do it. Then 3 days out, push it back ½ hour. "There was a study done with Hilton hotels that showed that most travelers who made sure that they slept better the night before travel, fared better in their new environment."

When you board the plane, adjust your watch, laptop and cellphone and start living the new time zone right away.

While in the air:

  • Try not to nap - A nap can thwart your body's need for a longer sleep that night. If you must sleep, limit yourself to 25 minutes,
  • Stay hydrated with water - Not coffee or alcoholic beverages. Arriving dehydrated will make you feel lousy, but it also makes it hard for your body to adjust to the new rhythm.
  • If you must nap when you arrive, limit it to a 90 minute nap - long enough to recharge the batteries but not so long you won't be able to sleep later.

When you arrive, a few tricks in your hotel room can help you find sleep satisfaction.

  • Jetlag effectsPack a sleep kit - Eye shades, meditation CD, aromatherapy sprays (lavender or chamomile) and a night light so you don't wake yourself up fully if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • Try a bedtime shower or bath - Dr. Breus says studies prove that raising the body temperature (with hot water) and lowering it quickly (with room temperature air) an hour before bed relaxes your muscles and prepares your body for sleep.
  • Clip the drapes shut - "Furnace and air vents are usually directly below the curtains. Clipping them prevents them from separating during the night and letting the early morning sun in."
  • Check the thermostat - Sleep can be disrupted if the room is warmer than 65° F or colder than 54° F.
  • Check the clock - The alarm may still be set from the last guest.

How do you cope with sleep challenges when you're traveling? Send us your tips and tricks - because all GoGirlfriends deserve a better night's sleep.

Post your comments below or catch up with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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I've heard that if you stay off food and alcohol/caffeinated drinks from a few hour before and during a long flight, then upon arrival have a meal that is appropriate to the time of day at your destination. Go to sleep at the normal local time. By observing/practicing the above you arrive feeling much more refreshed and do not feel so tried out. And that sleep is much improved.

A great article. I have an article due and will reference your article and site.

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