I love my sleep. At home, I’ve recently spent the sort of money that could have paid for a very nice holiday on a new mattress. I realized as much as I want to continue to see the world in style, I spend around a third of my life in bed, and most of that is in my own bedroom so it’s money well spent.
While a good night’s sleep is important at home, I find it’s also vital when I’m on the road. If I’m exploring a new place, I want to wake up refreshed and full of beans ready to take on the day. There’s so much to see and do out there, I don’t have hours to lose feeling groggy and trying to perk myself up with coffee.
Whether it’s jet lag or just being in a strange environment, some people find it difficult to get that good night’s sleep when they’re travelling. So I turned to sleep expert Carmel Harrington for five top tips so you can sleep well in a hotel.
1) Make Your Hotel Room More Like Home
Hotel rooms can be exciting places to be, and even if you’re not loving your room, your body may be thrown by the simple fact that you’re somewhere new.
Carmel says the best way to help your body get to sleep is by mimicking your home environment as much as you can.
You like to finish the day with a cup of herbal tea? Pack some in your suitcase and unwind with it in the hotel. While you’re at it, throw in your cup or mug from home. Sometimes those hotel ones just can’t soothe you in the same way as your old favourite can.
When it comes to books, don’t buy the one you’ll read at bedtime at the airport. Take something that you’re already reading and enjoying at home. You want to be sure that it will help you unwind, rather than possibly winding you up if you’re finding it hard to get into the story or the characters.
Our sense of smell is particularly powerful, and certain aromas can send signals to the brain. Burning your favourite candle, or even using the same body wash or scented products that you use at home can help.
You may also want to consider taking your own pillow. Not only is it comfy to curl up with on the plane, laying your head down on something familiar at the end of the day can make a real difference.
2) Set Your Body Clock
Changing time zones? Some people can slip right into that new sleep pattern without a second thought. Others find themselves staring at the ceiling, cursing jet lag.
Give your body a helping hand by starting to re-set your clock before you travel.
If you’re travelling west you need to start delaying your body clock. If you’re going east, you have to advance it.
Adjust your meal times, exercise routine and sleep times as much as you can before the trip. If you’re heading east, start going to bed earlier and getting up earlier than usual, and get your belly on board with new timings too. If you’re heading west, it’s all about staying up later and sleeping in (the more fun option!).
3) Lights Out – Anyway You Can
A nice, dark room is a great help when it comes to getting that much needed shut eye. While some hotel rooms have dark curtains and blinds to help you along, others let in too much light, so you may have to go DIY.
A good eye mask is all you need to make a difference. Make sure it’s comfortable and covers your eyes properly – none of this light leaking in the sides business. And don’t forget to pack it in your hand luggage so you can also use it on the plane.
4) Sleep Well with the Sounds of Silence
Insomnia isn’t fun at the best of times. When you’re tossing and turning in a hotel room, it really can put a dampener on your trip.
Sometimes the sounds of a strange place can add to the problem, whether it’s noisy traffic outside the window, or even the slightly spooky total silence that a lot of us aren’t used to.
Carmel recommends downloading an iPhone or iPad (or Android!) app that plays white noise. This will help you drift off to sleep by absorbing the noises that are distracting you.
Personally, I like to turn to the Relax Melodies app which has white noise option, but also a lot of sounds I like to play, like Thunderstorms, Rain, Birds, or the Ocean. You can even layer them over one another if you feel like being a very chilled out DJ.
Some of the categories do put a smile on my face (“Spring” and “Medieval” for instance) and I know my cat would hate the Vacuum option. But there are some great sleepy options to be found on this app.
5) Get the best bed you can
Of course, choosing a hotel that you know will have a comfy bed will also help the sweet dreams along.
I was recently invited along to try the new Sweet Bed at the Ibis Hotel at Darling Harbour. I’m told Ibis has recently developed a new bedding system for all of their hotels, which includes a new bed base, topped with a high tech mattress with an extra thick mattress topper and large, fluffy micro fibre pillows.
As I mentioned, my bed at home is pretty special. It’s not every day I find a hotel bed that is up to par, but the new Sweet Beds at Ibis have pulled it off.Super comfy, like sleeping on a big cloud, I found I drifted off even before the opening credits had finished on my movie, and I woke up 12 hours later, feeling very refreshed with a smile on my face.
For those new to the hotel, I should point out that the rooms themselves are on the smaller side but are clean and neat, with a good shower and an incredible bed. This is more the kind of room you use as a great base to see the city, rather than spend all day hanging out in. But I know what I’d rather do when I’m travelling, so that’s fine by me.
Carmen would be happy to know Ibis has embraced the dark and quiet room idea. My room was blissfully quiet and while I was having too much fun looking at the view, I did have the option to lower very effective blinds.
Considering I slept 12 hours with natural light coming in the next morning, I’d probably still be there now if I had!
Mmmmm… sleep. That’s sounding pretty good about now. So here’s to a wonderful night’s sleep, wherever you are in the world.
Dr Carmel Harrington is the author of “The Sleep Diet – Why sleeping well is the missing link to permanent weight loss” (MacMillan Press, 2012)
As well as finding out how to sleep well in hotels, you may also want to read about a hotel security basic I love.