How to Get Restful Sleep When Away From Home

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

Are you traveling this holiday season? Whether you’re catching zzz's at a five-star hotel or on an air mattress in your aunt and uncle’s basement, it can be tough to get a good night’s sleep when you're not in your own bed. No matter how comfortable (or uncomfortable) your temporary mattress is, being in an unfamiliar place can make it harder to relax. But there are some easy ways to make yourself feel like you’re at home—even when you’re not.

BYO Pillow.

Even the highest-quality mattress in the world won’t be comfortable if you’re putting your head on the wrong pillow. Getting the right fit under your head and neck helps keep your body in neutral alignment, so your head is in line with your spine, no matter what position you sleep in. And that could make the difference between waking up refreshed—and waking up with a headache. While some hotels (and hosts) offer firm and soft pillow options, it’s safest to pack what you already know works.

Defend Against Weird Noises.

At home, you might be used to the 3:00am train whistle or the 5:00am garbage trucks. But when you’re sleeping in a strange place, something as innocuous as the radiator flipping on and off can leave you wide-eyed. Foam earplugs are a small, inexpensive fix that can help muffle any unusual noises. Look for a pair that blocks 65 decibels or more. In addition, bringing along a white noise machine—or even just an app on your phone that produces soothing sounds—can also help drown out disruptions.

Make the Room Dark.

Even small amounts of light can affect your body clock, stimulate you, and make it harder to sleep. But since the windows in the living room that you're in may not have blackout drapes, it’s always a good idea to keep a light-blocking sleep mask in your luggage, pocket, or purse. After all, it's cheap, small, and lightweight, so it won't break the bank or weigh you down when you're on the go.

Stick to Your Routine.

While travel can often mean getting out of your comfort zone—like by trying new foods, speaking a new language, and meeting new people—when it comes to sleep, keep your schedule consistent. Wherever you’re logging your zzz’s, you’ll sleep best when you hit the sack and wake up at about the same times each day. If your trip takes you across time zones, adjust your bedtime by 15 minutes per night (either earlier or later, depending on which way you're traveling) in the days leading up to your trip to ease jetlag.

Steer Clear of a Nightcap.

If you're visiting friends or family members, you may be inclined to cut loose a little with big dinners and plenty of drinks. Unfortunately, neither does your sleep any favors. For instance, going to bed with a full stomach can cause heartburn and indigestion, while too much alcohol can keep you from the deep sleep that you need to wake up feeling refreshed. If you must eat on the later side, at least keep the meal light. And limit alcohol to no more than one or two drinks, so you can wake up the next morning ready to tackle the day.