Hi, everyone! How is your week going so far? Mine started out with a lot of hope, and then the project I am working on here in Guyana didn’t go as planned. We were supposed to have a large training course for teachers, but most of them had to drop out last minute. That was disappointing, but it means that today is my last day in Guyana for now. I am honestly elated. It has been a tough six weeks, with long work days and planning calls late into the night, limited familiar food options, moving from hotel to hotel and constant alertness about safety.
As I start packing, I’ve been thinking about travel habits that have become automatic for me. I shared fitness and diet tips over the weekend. If you missed them, be sure to check them our (links at the end of the post). Today I want to talk about how ensure a good night’s sleep and plan for and recover from jetlag on overseas flights.
We’ve all been there: in a new place tossing and turning, with the pillow all wrong or the sheets too scratchy (or soft, or anything else). Sometimes it is the loud street noise, other times it’s the unfamiliar quiet. I totally understand. I’ve been there too. In fact, as I type this, there is a disco across the street blaring music and some dogs fighting in the street. So what to do? I’ll start with some overall sleep tips, then move on in the next post to jet lag recovery.
Improving Sleep While Traveling
1. Long Sleeve Pajamas
This seems like a silly suggestion, but my first tip is to bring something to sleep in that covers most of your skin. That way, if the sheets disturb you, you are mostly covered. This is also useful in hotel rooms that get too cold. Of course this won’t work if you will be in a tropical climate without air conditioning, but if you are in a sleep environment you can control, try long pajamas while traveling
2. Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
Another fantastic option is a silk sleeping bag liner. These fold up to almost nothing and often come with a pillow insert. Then you can control your sheets. Silk is also better of the skin, breathable, and actually reduces fine lines on the skin.
3. Favorite White Noise
I have some Indian recitation I enjoy listening to, but select whatever white noise you prefer. This could be an app of the ocean (my other favorite) or some softly playing instrumental music. The key is something that is calm and soothing without any dramatic changes in tone or volume. White noise will help you to not be disturbed by what is going on in your new environment – whether that is noise or silence!
4. Maintain Regular Sleep Schedule
This tip is good not only for travel, but all the time. Our bodies get used to and crave routine. If you can maintain a regular time of going to bed, it will help you fall asleep. It’s also important to get up at about the same time each day. This helps your body adjust its circadian rhythms, which leads to better quality of sleep.
5. Hot Milk Before Bed
This is an old Ayurvedic remedy, and one my parents often used on me as a child. Now science explains that boiled milk has high levels of tryptophan, the amino acid that makes us feel sleepy. You can boil your milk with a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla, turmeric or ginger. I like a cinnamon graham cracker dunked in the hot milk too. Drink up, and find yourself drifting off to sleep.
6. Foot Massage with Warm Oil
This is also an old Ayurvedic sleep remedy that is very effective. Take a little bit of oil in your palm – this can be coconut, olive, almond, sesame, or other pure oil, and warm it up in the palm of your hand. You can also warm the whole bottle of oil by placing it (well sealed) in a bowl or sink of warm water.
Once the oil is warm, you can rub it all over your feet, paying special attention to the toes, the arch of the foot, and any tender or sore spots. Rub gently, without pushing too deeply, After hitting all the parts of the foot, you can rub up and down the length of the foot. This foot massage will calm nerves, increase circulation to the organ systems of the body, and will settle the mind. You can also add essential oils to your massage oil.
7. Essential Oils
Essential oils are powerful methods for delivering the healing power of nature in a concentrated form. For sleep, lavender, chamomile, jasmine, and ylang ylang are all soothing and uplifting to the heart and emotions. To enjoy the healing benefits of the oils, you can put a few drops of essential oil on a tissue and put it on your pillow. You can put a few drops of essential oils in your massage oil. Or if you have a diffuser, you can diffuse the oil throughout your room.
8. Turn Off Screens
How many times have we all arrived somewhere, tired, and crawled into bed with our computer, phone, tablet, or all three? Unfortunately, the blue light from these screens can inhibit melatonin production and even cause insomnia. It’s good to shut down all screens at least half an hour before you want to sleep. Put your phone across the room so that it is not right by your bed waiting for you. This ensures you can get the rest you need.
9. Keep Your Room Cool
Finally, research shows that a cool sleep environment helps improve the depth and quality of sleep. If you are having difficulty sleeping, consider trying to adjust your room temperature. I know for me, if I am too hot the night will be spent tossing and turning.
This concludes travel sleep tips for today. In the next post, I will discuss my tried and true strategies to help prevent jet lag and get over jet lag more quickly.