How to sleep in a hotel
You’re not dreaming — it can seem nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure. According to eighth annual relaxation report from Princess Cruises, 63% of Americans report having trouble falling asleep while on vacation. Factor in the stress of travel and the disruptions that come with sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, and this reported lack of sleep actually makes a lot of sense. But there is no doubt about the importance of good sleepand to help you get the most out of your vacation or get all the cylinders running for that business trip, we spoke with sleep experts to get their tips for sleeping well in a hotel.
Why is it difficult to sleep in hotels?
“New or unfamiliar places can trigger sleep difficulties due to environmental issues such as differences in room temperature, noise, smell, type of mattress and pillow,” explains Dr Carlara Weissmember of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and advise sleep Pluto pillow. That means unfamiliar smells, noisy neighbors down the hall, the thermostat you can’t quite adjust, even the fancy mattress and bedding can all work against you.
There could also be something scalable at play. Annika Carroll, CEO of SleepLikeABoss and sleep and women’s health coach, explains that the the brain assesses safety before stopping to rest. “An unfamiliar place creates uncertainty for the brain, which often leads to sleep problems during the first one or two nights in that new place.”
These factors combined mean that planning ahead is crucial if you hope to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel. Luckily, a few best practices can go a long way in finding quality zzzzs in a hotel.
How to sleep better in the hotel
There are a few things you can try to sleep better in a hotel. First, try to anticipate the situation when you book your room. Carroll suggests requesting a room away from elevators and areas with heavy foot traffic if possible.
“These quiet rooms tend to be at the end of hallways,” she says. “It may be a bit further to walk to the bedroom, but worth it for the quiet sleep.
If you are a regular visitor, see if you can stay in the same room. “It creates familiarity and will help you sleep better,” says Carroll.
Then do what you can to manage your environment. Various studies show that the optimal sleeping environment is dark, quiet, cool and comfortable. Here’s how to achieve it when you travel.
Make good use of those blackout curtains and set an alarm instead of letting the sun wake you up in the morning – while waking up with the sun usually leads to a gentler alarm clock that works in sync with your circadian rhythm, the last thing you’ll want to see is the 5am sunrise after a night of tossing and turning at an unfamiliar hotel. Likewise, keep the room dark at night to better prepare you for sleep. To research discovered that exposure to ambient light before bedtime suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleepiness and relaxation.
If you have a sleep mask, be sure to pack it. This way you can ensure complete darkness even if the room itself has lights you cannot turn off.
Hotels can be noisy, even if you have conscientious neighbors. Elevator doors opening and closing, customers walking down the hall, early morning hotel deliveries, or ambient street noise can all be incredibly disruptive – and that’s not the kind of stuff you can reasonably complain to management about. So plan wisely.
“A practical suggestion is to use a fan or AC power to create white noise and reduce external noise,” says Dr. Weiss. “Most hotels have in-room air conditioning, so take advantage of this to muffle unwanted noise and adjust the temperature to suit your comfort level.” Just be sure to spend some time understanding the AC unit before you go to sleep – some will cycle on and off to maintain the temperature throughout the night, so look for a continuous fan option to maintain stable noise levels.
If that’s not enough, you can use earplugs, pack a white noise device, or even use an app with different white noise options.
Temperature plays an important role in the quality of sleep.
“As a reminder, 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit is an excellent range for good quality sleep,” says Dr. Weiss, so be sure to adjust the thermostat — and yourself — for successful sleep. Of course, it is important to consider other factors; you can consider the thickness of your duvet, the type of pajamas you wear, or whether or not you share a bed or room when adjusting the temperature.
Follow your usual bedtime routine
To research shows that consistent bedtime routines are linked to better sleep outcomes, so stick to that routine as much as possible.
“If you have a sleep routine at home — like showering or bathing at night, reading or doing yoga, or keeping a journal, whatever — be consistent on your trip as well,” says Carroll. “Our bodies love routines, just like our minds.”
This includes a consistent bedtime, if possible.
Bring something familiar
You cannot bring your own bed to your hotel, but you can certainly bring your own pillow. You could even go a step further by making the hotel room more familiar.
“Bring a small item from your bedroom, like a small picture frame you might have on your bedside table, your alarm clock, or a book you’re currently reading,” suggests Carroll. “If you wake up at night and your brain registers something familiar, it helps it feel safe and can help you sleep.”
You’ve heard this before, but screens can really wreak havoc on your ability to relax for any length of time. It’s especially important to disconnect when trying to relax in a new place.
“It’s easy to fall into the temptation to surf cable or your phone in a hotel room, but it can affect the quality of your sleep,” says Dr. Weiss. Blame it on blue light, which hinders the production of melatonin.
If you use your phone to access a meditation or white noise app, keep the screen lighting dim and avoid looking directly at the screen for too long, just long enough to access and start your app.
Request two beds
Are you traveling with a friend? Ask for two beds in your room. Whereas to research shows that couples sharing a bed experience better sleep, which probably won’t extend to a few nights in a hotel room with a friend. Having a bed all to yourself will help you get comfortable so you have the best chance of sleeping well.
Consider a sleep aid
If you have a history of sleepless nights in hotel rooms, consider using melatonin to help jump-start the sleep cycle. To research shows it can be an effective way to improve insomnia in healthy adults; however, it is important to be careful when using melatonin, as it is unregulated in the United States and doses may vary. If you are new to melatonin, be sure to follow the instructions carefully.
Minimizing COVID Travel Anxiety
When checking in, address any COVID-related travel anxiety that may be interfering with your sleep. Learn about cleaning procedures and policies in place to protect hotel guests. It can also be useful to bring your own disinfectant wipes – then you can clean high-traffic areas like doorknobs, locks, remotes, light switches and counters.
The last word from Sleepopolis
If you can’t fall asleep in a hotel room, you’re not alone. Between a possible evolutionary oddity and the unknown environment, there’s a lot working against you. But best sleep practices, like managing light, temperature, and noise, as well as sticking to a consistent, familiar bedtime routine, could make a big difference.