You could be travelling for business. You could be off on that once in a lifetime round the world dream holiday. More likely it’s something in between. Whatever you’re planning or wherever you’re going, ensuring you create the conditions for quality sleep can turn a good trip into a great one. Here’s the sleep tips that can make that happen.

On the subject of travel, the late, great Anthony Bourdain once wrote –

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts – it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you.”

While we agree with much of that, there is in fact a lot you can do to make air travel a more pleasant experience and enjoy the kind of life-changing experience Mr Bourdain referred to – and the first step takes place before you’ve left home.

Strategic Sleep Plan

A Strategic Sleep Plan basically means that a few days before you travel to your destination, you should start to adjust your body clock to sync with your destination’s time zone. So if you’re in NYC and planning an imminent trip to Paris (6 hours ahead) try to go to bed a little earlier to reflect the fact that bedtime, say 11pm in Paris, is 5pm in NYC. Use the same approach to plan your waking times too.

Also, in the days approaching your departure, try to reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake. These stimulants can play havoc with your circadian rhythm and contribute to a stressful travel experience.

Up In The Air

There are so many great sleep tips for travelling long distances by air that compiling a comprehensive list would ironically probably involve a couple of periods of sleep. That said, here are what we consider to be (in no particular order) the Top Six.

  • Wear loose clothes and comfortable shoes. Self-explanatory really. Choose garments that allow you to move position in your economy airline seat freely and enable good blood circulation.
  • Take a sleep mask and neck pillow. Even if they only allow you to snooze rather than sleep (which is actually a good idea – see below), these items could be the difference between rested you or zombie you staggering off the airplane.
  • Noise reducing headphones not only allow you to drift off to the sounds of your favorite tunes, they also cut out irritating noise pollution such as engine noise, screaming kids, constant announcements from the flight deck and offers to buy cheap perfume or 5kg Toblerones.
  • Choose food with care. When we travel, it’s always tempting to indulge ourselves a bit too much. Resist and try to avoid spicy dishes, dishes high in sugar and other meals that may disrupt your capacity to rest.
  • Stay well hydrated – low humidity inside airplane cabins can cause dehydration so compensate for this environment by regularly sipping on water.
  • Unless it fits in with your Strategic Sleep Plan or your Arrival Sleep Plan (see below) try to keep naps on the plane to no more than 45 minutes or consider a power nap.

Become a local

You’ve flown from Europe to LA. You’ve been up for 20 hours. Your body is screaming SLEEP but it’s only 10am local time. What do you do? You implement your Arrival Sleep Plan, that’s what. So what’s an Arrival Sleep Plan? It’s quite simple – as soon as you arrive at your destination, you should immediately align your body clock with the local time zone. Likewise, if you’re scheduled to arrive at your destination in the evening, try to avoid sleeping on the plane so you can go straight to bed on arrival. Also, on the first morning in your new surroundings, try to get up early (local time) take a warm shower to get circulation going then do some light exercise. All these tips help you ease into the local groove time-wise, allowing you to enjoy more time exploring your destination and less time catching up on sleep. However, if you’re having trouble falling asleep in the first few days of your trip, try these hacks to help you deal with this. 

Short stop? Stay in your own zone

Arrival Sleep Plans are all well and good, but what do you do if your planned stay in a town is short – say two days? Is it worth trying to sync with local time for such a short period? The answer is no. By the time you’ve adapted to the new time zone, it’ll be time to move on. In these situations, keep your own schedule that reflects your next destination whether that’s back home or on to another time zone – and if you do suffer a sleepless night, don’t worry – we can help you survive the day after

Happy Trails!