I’ve learned there is one cold hard truth when it comes to sleeping better away from home. Wherever you’re sleeping has to be cozy. Homey, ya know?
If you’re not comfortable, you’re going to be miserable. It doesn’t matter if I’m staying in a cheapo motel like I did when I was younger, or if my work has put me up in a swanky hotel. If it’s loud, too bright, or the bed’s hard my trip is shot to heck because I’m so darn tired.
I clocked a lot of road trip miles growing up. My husband and I travel a lot, plus work sends me to training on occasion. I’ve spent my share sleeping away from home in hotels, motels, and with family.
I’m a sleep diva and I’ve got to get my zzz’s, so I can’t waste time being miserable and exhausted. Out of desperation, I’ve developed some useful tips to getting sleep away from home, and I hope you can find them helpful, too.
How to Sleep in a Noisy Hotel
I was on a business trip a few years ago. It was a really nice hotel, but I had a not so nice experience. My room was right over the bar that had a live band that played past midnight. To top it off, my next door neighbor decided the show he was watching was so good he needed to make sure I heard it, too.
I got creative after that. Here’s what I do to sleep better away from home when it’s loud:
The reason I use headband headphones to sleep in is because they’re soft and lay flat against your head. Nothing goes in your ears, so it’s more comfortable than earbuds. (plus they won’t fall out!)
I have an app on my phone that plays white noise, but if you’re into music, you could totally play that, too. As long as you play something that drowns out the ambient noise, that’s all that matters.
Sometimes, though, the noise level can get so high I can still hear it over my rainstorm white noise. When that happens, I use noise reducing earplugs along with my SleepPhones. (which is also a good combo if your sleeping partner snores)
How to Make a Hotel Bed Softer and More Comfortable
I have to admit, this can be a tough one to fix. After all, there’s only so much you can do with a mattress that’s as hard as a rock.
I’ve found that sleeping on a blanket or comforter can make it bearable. I almost always travel with my fluffy blanket because my husband freezes me out in the car.
If you didn’t bring one with you, ask for an extra blanket or comforter from the front desk or whoever you’re staying with.
Now pull back the fitted sheet and lay the blanket or comforter on top of the mattress. If the blanket is thin, you may have to double it so it will be thick enough. Remake your bed and you’re good to go.
If you’re going to be staying a few nights, you could always go buy an egg crate mattress topper from Walmart. As a last resort, never be afraid to ask for a different room. Hotels want happy customers, more importantly, repeat customers, and most will be glad to accommodate you.
Beating Hotel Room Insomnia
Even if I’ve been sleeping pretty good at home, sometimes I have a hard time sleeping well away from home because of hotel room insomnia.
I think it’s probably caused by a mixture of not sleeping in your own bed, your routine is messed up, and whether you’ve crossed any time zones. It’s a sleep zapping vortex that leaves you laying in bed awake for hours or having a fitful sleep.
Here’s some tips to sleeping better away from home if you have hotel room insomnia:
- Make your bed feel familiar. If possible, bring your own pillow/pillows and your favorite blanket or throw.
- Keep the room temp low. The best temperature for sleeping is 60-65F.
- If you’ve crossed time zones or you’re jet lagged, take 5mg of chewable melatonin about an hour before bed. (be sure to turn the lights down and turn off your screens)
- Keep your nighttime routine as close to normal as possible. Do you have a soak in the tub and drink chamomile tea before bed? Then take a bath and order hot chamomile or another herbal tea that is good for sleep.
How to Make it Darker in your Hotel Room
Good sleep is like a vampire. It runs away from you if it’s shown any type of light. Next to noise, light is what will push me over the edge. And, yes, I will hunt down light like a vampire hunter with a wooden stake and a cross.
Making a bright hotel room dark can be a challenging problem to fix, but it’s doable, if nothing else bearable. Here’s some things I’ve done to go dark in my motel room.
- Always keep a couple large metal binder clips in your suitcase. If the curtains don’t stay shut, clip them together to block out the light.
- Put a towel over the alarm clock that’s by the bed. If you don’t need it at all, just unplug it. If you’re a clock watcher (which you totally shouldn’t if you want a good night’s sleep!) cover them with these reusable Dim It sheets. They dim the numbers, but they’re still readable.
- If after all of that it’s still too bright in your hotel room, sleep in a light blocking eye mask.
- For safety, keep the light on in the bathroom, but close the door so you won’t trip over anything on your way to the bathroom.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene Away from Home
Being on a trip doesn’t mean you can throw all your good sleep habits out the window, at least not if sleeping better away from home is your goal.
Nothing sabotages sleep faster than poor sleep hygiene. So if you wouldn’t do it in your bedroom at home, (you’re not, right? 😉 ) don’t do it in your hotel room.
Not sure exactly what poor sleep hygiene is? Well, if you’re doing any of these in your hotel room – stop it! If not, all the earplugs and eye masks in the world can’t help you sleep.
- Eating in bed
- Watching TV in bed
- Doing work in your bed
- Using your phone/tablet/laptop an hour before bed
- Watching TV an hour before bed
- Drinking caffeine past noon
- Drinking alcohol too close to bed time
- Eating a large meal or sugary foods within two hours of bedtime
Yeah, it sucks not being able to binge on room service while you lay in bed watching TV and playing Candy Crush, but if you want to sleep well you’ve got to let go of bad sleep habits.
Give yourself the Spa Treatment and Relax
When I’m staying in a hotel room, I take advantage of it by doing all the relaxing things I never have time to do in the evenings when I’m at home.
Make your room your own personal spa. Dim the lights and diffuse a sleep promoting essential oil blend, like this one I use in the picture, in a travel diffuser. Pack some nice sleepy time bath salts to put in the tub. (if I forget mine, I just run to the store and pick up a couple of single packs) Soak as long as you like.
And for pete’s sakes, turn off your cell phone! Give your loved ones the phone number to your room so they can call you if there’s an emergency.
Ask the front desk to give you a wake up call, so you don’t have the excuse “oh but I need to have it on for an alarm!” You don’t have to check email or Facebook until you wake up in the morning. Cut the cord already and relax!
If you Still can’t Sleep, it’s Okay to Use Natural Sleeping Aids for Travel
Sometimes no matter how much you plan and prepare to get better sleep from home, you still can have a hard time sleeping while you’re on a trip. And that’s okay, you can use natural sleeping aids when you have travel related insomnia.
I think it’s better to use natural sleep aids any time, even when you’re at home, because the chance for icky side effects, like a next day hangover, is about zero.
Here’s a few of my favorite natural sleep aids that may help you get to sleep, but still wake up functional and without a drugged feeling like some OTC meds can.
Bach Rescue Sleep Natural Sleep Remedy Liquid Melts Natural Sleeping AidHylands Homeopathic Calms Forte Natural Sleep Aid Tablets, 100 Count BottleSleep Sense – All Natural Sleep Aid with Melatonin, Magnesium, GABA, L-Theanine, 5-HTP
Planning Ahead Means Sleeping Better Away from Home
As much as I’d like to be the type that can be carefree and just drop everything and go on a trip, I can’t. Not if I’m going to get a good night’s sleep, anyways.
When it comes to sleeping better in hotels, it just takes a little planning before you go to make sleeping easier. So don’t forget to pack your own pillow, a blanket, earplugs, an eye mask, and some natural sleep aids to be sure you’ll be sleeping better away from home!