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Sleep Tips For Travel And Jet Lag

Written by: Shannon M. Glenn, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Now that we are getting back to a world that involves travel it’s a great time to talk about your sleep when you’re on the road. It’s normal for our body and mind to become accustomed to the comforts of home. This is especially true when it comes to sleep. You have your cozy bed, your favorite pillow, the right materials for your bedding. You probably sleep on the same side of the bed each night with the same bedtime ritual too. So, when you are out of your normal environment its normal for there to be a little bit of struggle adjusting to sleeping in a new place. For most of us there will be a night or two of sleep that will be off but for others sleeping well while travelling is very difficult.

Here are some tips to help you get as much rest as you can while you are on the road.

Stay Hydrated:

It’s very easy to become dehydrated from a day of air travel; both because of the altitude and the recycled air. Because of this, it is important to ensure that you increase your liquid intake about 24-48 hours before departure. Bring a large water bottle of your own to stay hydrated. This will prevent grogginess when you awaken from rest on the plane.

Always avoid the Red-Eye:

It may seem like a good idea at the time as you think you’ll sleep and arrive at your destination ready and raring to go, but the reality is usually very different. The seats are not comfortable, your neck gets sore, there is a lot of environmental noise, and you may be tempted to stay up all night watching the in-flight movies. Plus, being on the plane is only a portion of the travel experience. You have to travel to the airport hours in advance, maybe transfer planes, and wait for your luggage. By the time you arrive at your hotel, you’ll have such a sleep debt that this alone will take you days to recover from.

Travel Prepared:

Odd sounds and inconvenient light are two of the biggest sleep-robbing culprits in a hotel. There are a few things you should pack to eliminate distractions and make your nights far more comfortable:

  • Make a sleep travel kit:

  1. Eye mask It’s worth investing in a decent light-eliminating eye mask; one that you’ve practiced using for at least a week before your flight so you are comfortable sleeping with it on.

  2. Bring black electrical tape and a small pair of scissors. Once you’ve turned out the lights for the night, you can block out any and all other small things that emit light, like the phone or the TV.

  3. Earplugs To prevent noise interruptions, bring along some earplugs.

  4. Battery-operated noise machine If noise is a huge issue for you, consider investing in a portable white noise machine to block out unwelcome sounds.

  5. Your favorite pillow Often we have favorite pillows that we like to sleep with, so don’t forget to bring your pillow along.

  6. Tea Sleep time tea or chamomile tea right before bed can be an effective sleep aid and the scent of lavender is a natural sleep enhancer. Try carrying a lavender candle, a scented facemask, or some essential oil.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine:

It can be tempting to have a couple of glasses of wine on the flight, be careful to not have more than one maybe two. Alcohol can cause dehydration and since that is already a risk on the airplane you want to be cautious. Try not to drink any alcohol while on the plane (it will help with any feelings of jetlag if you avoid it while on the plane). Likewise, try not to guzzle large amounts of caffeine to try to stay awake. This, too, will make it harder for you to fall asleep when you are ready for bed. Most people need at least 4 to 6 hours to metabolize caffeine, so keep that in mind when you are thinking about your ideal bedtime when you arrive. Also, caffeine can increase the risk of dehydration as well which will not help you sleep well.


This is another thing to consider while traveling. Try not to eat much on the plane if at all. If it is a long flight consider having a good meal before you leave and eating a small snack on the plane. Our digestive system slows down when we are flying and that can make you feel sluggish when you arrive and cause more jetlag symptoms too. Also eating a big meal too close to when you want to fall asleep will impact your night. Try to shoot for no food at least 2 hours before you want to sleep.

Pick A Quiet Room:

Some parts of the hotel can be quieter than others. For a good night’s sleep, try requesting a room on a higher floor, away from the elevators. This should help block out street noise and foot traffic. And don’t forget to put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign!

Stick to your Bedtime Routine:

The excitement of travel can leave your mind buzzing when it’s time to go to sleep. Now that you’ve created your bedtime routine, it is important to stick to it as closely as you possibly can while you travel. Your body and brain are deeply in tune with this cuing system, so it will help calm down and signal the body that nighttime sleep is near.

Jet lag:

Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 PM or 11 PM local time. If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than one sleep cycle. (90 minutes) Set an alarm to be sure not to oversleep.

Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.

Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime when you arrive.

Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible but preferably at the noon hour when the sun is strongest. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.

At least two hours before your bedtime, close down the black-out blinds, and block out as many light sources as you can. Avoid watching screens at least one hour before bed. You could also travel with a blue-light-blocking light bulb to swap out when you arrive.

Bring elements or objects from home like a picture of the family, favorite pillow, blanket or even a coffee mug to ease the feeling of being in a new environment. Melatonin:

Melatonin or an over-the-counter sleep aide can be helpful for the first night or two upon arrival or return, especially if you feel yourself also getting stressed out about potential sleep disruptions.


Short naps during the day can be helpful in paying back some of the sleep debt acquired for the travel day, or poor sleep at night. Try to keep these naps in the early afternoon so they don’t impact the sleep pressure needed before bed. It’s also wise to keep them to about 30 minutes. This will rejuvenate you, but won’t let you slide into a deep sleep, which will actually make you feel worse if you wake up during it. Be Patient:

Final Thoughts:

Even if you do all of the above, any way you slice it, travel and jet lag will affect us all. The best thing to do is to try to stay calm. Stressing about your sleep will just make it worse, so trust that your body is doing everything it possibly can to work with you and get you on track as soon as possible.

It usually takes 3 to 5 days for our body clocks to come around. That is because it can take up to a day for each time zone crossed to adjust to the local time.

Traveling several time zones to the east causes worse jet lag than flying the same number of time zones west, and although the precise mechanism isn’t known, it probably reflects the greater difficulty of advancing rather than delaying the body’s internal clock.

Just remember that a few nights of poor sleep is not the end of the world, and you’ll find that you do just fine during your days and are still able to enjoy your trip.

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Shannon M. Glenn, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Shannon Glenn is the owner and founder of Sleep Well Sleep Specialists and is a Certified Pediatric and Adult Sleep Specialist. Shannon started Sleep Well in 2011 and has been dedicated to helping adults and children develop healthy sleep habits. She has B.A. in Psychology, attended a sleep education program as well as continued sleep education. She has privately worked with thousands of families guiding them on their path to better sleep. Shannon has a team of highly educated and talented sleep specialists working with her. Shannon believes that everyone deserves to sleep well!


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