Everything You Need to Know About Sleep While Traveling

Non-travelers tend to have this view of travel as pure luxury. They think you spend your entire day sitting on the beach sipping cocktails from a coconut. Of course those days do happen and they are sublime. What the stay-at-homes don’t understand is that travel is often pretty freaking tough.

You’re out of your comfort zone, your body and mind has to cope daily with new and unfamiliar pressures. Different languages, exotic foods, strange and often dangerous forms of transport. To be honest travel can be absolutely exhausting.  

When world wanderers get too weary a insidious feeling often begins to creep over their being, they start to lose enthusiasm for sights, their patience begins to fade, they may even get grumpy with locals. This demon is travelers fatigue and it’s the absolute worst.

Travelers fatigue is that thing that makes you book a flight home while you still have money in your pocket to burn, a decision you will regret for the rest of your life.

Fortunately there is a powerful antidote to this infliction. What is it? Sleep of course. Read on and I will tell you everything you need to know about sleep while traveling.

You need more of it than you think

There is a common refrain amongst first time travelers, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. I’m sure you’ve heard someone yell this as they head out the hostel door at 3am in a quixotic search for the last remaining open bar in town. Unfortunately what that nighttime warrior is probably unaware of is that constantly skipping sleep actually means you’re likely to die earlier. The irony.

Veteran travelers, those with a few big trips under their belt, these guys understand the necessity of getting a solid night’s rest. Anything less than seven hours a night and you are going to put in a subpar performance tomorrow. Your immune system won’t fire on all cylinders and your cognitive ability will be impaired.

Embrace the power of the power nap

The single best aspect of travel is the total lack of responsibility you have. There is no boss, teacher or parent looking over your shoulder checking up on you. Unless of course you’ve gone traveling with your mum. If you’ve done that you’re beyond my help so please move along.

Having no responsibilities basically means you can do what you want when you want, within the laws of the land of course. Given this freedom I highly recommend you embrace the power of the power nap.

Research has shown that a nap in the afternoon is of incredible benefit both for your physical and mental health. Think of it like a pit stop in a formula one race. It can make up for some of those lost hours of sleep taken from you by creaking dorm beds or snoring roommates.

An added bonus is the power napping has on our ability to learn. If you are studying the language of the country you’re traveling through, have a nap straight after a vocabulary session and your ability to recall words will be greatly improved. Science fact!

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Wear sunscreen and always carry earplugs and an eye mask. These two sleep aids cost next to nothing, they weigh next to nothing, yet they are priceless when it comes to getting to sleep while traveling. I also like to keep my generic mp3 device fully loaded with podcasts and have a nifty pair of snooze-ready earbuds in my bag. Just incase I need to sleep in the same room as the Thanos of snoring. You know the kind of snorer I’m talking about don’t you? The room shakers!

Not all sleep is created equal

There is possibly no greater pleasure on this spinning blue planet of ours than having a sunset beer with travel buddies. As the great fiery orb sinks beneath the horizon you put your feet up and swap stories of wonders seen and daring dos. Ahhh, pure bliss.

Unfortunately there is a price to pay for drinking too late into the night. Your sleep will be terrible. I know it may not feel this way, you might drop off instantly and find yourself in bed for a solid 12 hours. Alas, not all sleep is created equally.

Alcohol and sleep are poor bedfellows. Drink inhibits the brain’s ability to enter deep wave and REM sleep. This being the lovely mentally restorative sleep that comes later in the sleep cycle. So while you may feel as if you’ve been asleep for long time you’ve just been getting superficial low quality slumber.

Now, I’m not about to say you shouldn’t drink at all whilst on the road, I wouldn’t dare considering my history and the photographic evidence to prove it. I am going to suggest however that if you’re feeling a little low in energy that a few days or a week off the sauce might allow your poor weary brain to get some much needed rest.

Well, there you have it travel fans – my guide to sleeping while on the road. Go get lost my friends but make sure you get your full dose of vitamin Zzzzs.