In Style + Design

The Secret To A Good Night’s Sleep While Travelling

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy, productive life. Without the recommended seven to nine hours sleep per night, our bodies can’t function at their best. When we’re travelling though, a good sleep can often be as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster – particularly on the first night.

Unfamiliar lighting, foreign sounds in the distance, an alarm clock tick-tick-ticking its way into your soul… the reason we notice these things more when we’re travelling is not our minds playing tricks on us, but our body’s natural fight-or-flight instincts kicking in.

Shea Morrison, sleep expert and co-founder of luxury sleep aid makers The Goodnight Co, says this primal instinct is known in the scientific world as the ‘first night effect’.

“When you’re in an unfamiliar environment, you’re naturally going to feel less secure,” Morrison says. “As a result, your body feels like it has to be more alert just to be safe.

“It always happens that first night in a new location, but the good news is it’s usually just that first night, with following nights usually resulting in a much better sleep.”

While there’s not a lot that can be done to completely stop the first night effect, Morrison believes there are ways to lessen its impact. The secret, she says, lies in routine.

Consistency is key

If you can’t keep your sleep routine consistent, drink herbal tea before bed or try reading a physical book. Image: Sean Fennessy / The Calile 

“Everything to do with a good night sleep comes back to consistency and routine,” Morrison says. “The best sleep is achieved when you go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.”

Though it’s not always possible to follow a routine on the road, particularly with time zone changes, social events and working late nights, consistent habits can make a difference.

“Bringing your herbal tea to drink before bed, using an essential oil or aromatherapy roll-on, or reading a physical book, not a Kindle or iPad, can help put your mind and body at ease.

“Your morning routine is also just as important as the evening. Waking up at a regular time, having lots of natural light, and also looking at your nutrition helps set the tone for the day.”

According to Morrison, a lack of sleep can have a cumulative effect on the body, and one good sleep is not enough to fully recover either – it can take some time to bounce back.

“Depending on who you ask, lack of sleep can also affect everything from your recovery and readiness to cognitive brain function. It also has a huge impact on weight loss and gain.

“Sleep deprivation can cause hormone imbalances in the body. One in particular, grehlin – often called the hunger hormone – can increase your appetite and lead to you store fat.”

Remember to stay hydrated

The vital ingredient for a good night’s sleep is water. Image: Snapwire / Pexels

Beyond the first night, Morrison says the most vital ingredient of a good night’s sleep is water.

“People subconsciously avoid drinking too much water when they travel because they don’t know where the nearest toilet is,” she says. “It sounds like a silly thing, but our bodies need the opposite – they need more water, particularly on planes and in air-conditioning.”

Morrison says air-conditioning is one of the common causes of dehydration, and its often the thing that wakes us in the night, not the need for the bathroom. To remedy this, she recommends keeping a glass of water by the bed and taking a sip whenever you wake up.

Switch off, relax and reboot

Keep a notebook next to your bed and the minute something comes to mind, jot it down. Image: Jessica Lewis / Pexels

Another common cause of late-night frustration is a restless mind: replaying the day’s events, overthinking conversations with co-workers, or mapping out our plan of attack for the following day. To overcome this, Morrison advocates an old-school approach.

“I’m a big fan of the old-school notebook by the bed, just doing a brain dump. The minute something comes into your mind, write it down, get it out of your head and forget it.”

Another technique she swears by is meditation, particularly just before going to bed.

“Whether a guided meditation or simply taking time to close your eyes and focus on your breathing, meditation can be a useful tool to switch your brain from thinking to just being.”

Learn from the experts

If you’re still struggling, consider attending sleep retreat like the one at The Calile Hotel June 7 to 9. Image: Sean Fennessy / The Calile

To help frequent travellers combat a restless night, Morrison and The Goodnight Co team will be holding a dedicated sleep retreat at The Calile Hotel in Brisbane from June 7 to 9 with the program covering topics from jet lag to mindfulness techniques.

Joined by a team of health and wellbeing practitioners, including yoga instructors and nutrition experts, the three-day/two-night retreat will teach attendees how to rest, reset and set themselves up for a good sleep – no matter where in the world they may be.

Morrison admits there is no silver bullet in the battle for a good sleep – what works for one may have no effect for another – but a consistent routine could lead to a dream come true.

(Lead images: Sean Fennessy / The Calile )

Published 12 April, 2019