June 14, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

How Travel Affects Sleep And What To Do About It

4 min read

Traveling can whisk us away to exciting new places, offering a break from the daily grind and an opportunity to indulge in new experiences. Yet, amidst the excitement, there’s one companion that often struggles to keep up: our sleep. Whether you’re jet-setting across continents or just spending a night away from home, the quality of your sleep can significantly impact your trip. Dr. Rebecca Robbins, MMSc, PhD, MS, a member of the Health Advisory Board for Equinox, shares her expertise on how sleep is affected by travel and what the emerging trend of sleep tourism means for travelers.

Why You Can’t Sleep When Traveling

When we travel, our sleep is often one of the first things to suffer, and the reasons are multifaceted. Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a member of the Health Advisory Board for Equinox, delves into the complex interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that disrupt our sleep while on the road.

One significant disruptor is the “first night effect,” where our brains remain partially alert due to inherent survival mechanisms, preventing us from entering the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. This heightened state of alertness is an evolutionary trait that historically helped protect us from potential dangers in unfamiliar environments. As a result, travelers often experience lighter sleep and more frequent awakenings during their first night in a new location.

The sensory changes in a new environment can further disturb our sleep. Unfamiliar noises—whether from street traffic, hotel air conditioners, or even different patterns of silence—alongside unusual lighting can throw off our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This disruption makes it challenging to fall asleep and maintain deep sleep.

Adding to these challenges are the physical and psychological stresses of travel. Long periods of sitting, whether in a plane or a car, can lead to physical discomfort and stiffness, while the dry air in airplane cabins often causes dehydration, contributing to discomfort that can keep us awake. Moreover, the stress of navigating new places, managing travel schedules, and the anticipation or anxiety about travel events can accumulate, significantly impeding our ability to relax at bedtime.

Jet lag from crossing time zones compounds these issues by desynchronizing our biological clock, making it difficult to fall asleep and wake up at socially appropriate times. Depending on the number of time zones crossed, adjusting to local time can be a slow process, further prolonging sleep disturbances.

Understanding these factors allows travelers to better prepare for and manage sleep disturbances while traveling. Practical steps like staying hydrated, engaging in relaxing activities before bedtime, and gradually adjusting sleep schedules prior to traveling can help mitigate these effects, enhancing overall travel experience by ensuring better rest.

The Emergence of Sleep Tourism

The importance of sleep is gaining recognition, leading to the rise of sleep tourism. This trend includes enhanced sleep-focused amenities at hotels and the creation of sleep retreats. “Hotels are starting to realize that they’re not just selling a room; they’re selling a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Robbins. Sleep retreats are another aspect of this trend, offering programs that educate about sleep science and provide tools for better sleep, often in serene settings perfect for unwinding.

Equinox Hotels takes the concept of sleep tourism to new heights with its sleep-centric amenities. Designed to anticipate every guest’s need, their rooms and suites are perfect for various activities, from celebrating to working, and especially sleeping. Equinox has also introduced its Global Sleep Symposium, set for June 19th and 20th, which will bring together experts to discuss the transformative power of sleep. This symposium is part of their commitment to redefine sleep tourism through dynamic programming and cutting-edge research.

The Business Case for Better Sleep in Hotels

Improving sleep quality for guests isn’t just about comfort—it’s smart business. Dr. Robbins points out, “Only a third of travelers are satisfied with their sleep while traveling, indicating a significant area for improvement.” Hotels that invest in better sleep experiences see more repeat guests and recommendations, which can significantly affect their bottom line.

To help hotels improve their guests’ sleep experiences, Dr. Robbins suggests several practical measures. Ensuring rooms can be completely darkened, reducing noise, and maintaining a cool room temperature are key factors. She also emphasizes the importance of investing in quality mattresses, pillows, and bedding.

Tips for Travelers to Ensure a Good Night’s Sleep

Dr. Robbins provides a robust set of tips for travelers looking to enhance their sleep while on the road:

  1. Maintain a Sleep Ritual: Keep a consistent bedtime routine similar to home to signal your brain it’s time to sleep.
  2. Adjust Your Schedule Beforehand: Gradually change your sleep schedule before traveling across time zones to minimize jet lag.
  3. Seek Natural Light: Upon arrival, expose yourself to plenty of natural light to help reset your internal clock.
  4. Choose the Right Meals: Opt for lighter dinners and indulge in a substantial lunch to avoid sleep disturbances from heavy nighttime meals.
  5. Create a Sleep-Conducive Environment: Use earplugs and eye masks to block out unwanted noise and light, especially in unfamiliar settings.

Understanding how travel impacts sleep is crucial for making the most of our adventures. By prioritizing sleep, travelers can enjoy their journeys more fully, and the hospitality industry can better serve their needs, ensuring every trip is as refreshing as intended. Whether you’re exploring a new city or retreating to a peaceful hideaway, remember that good sleep is your passport to a successful trip.


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