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Getting a good night's sleep while traveling

Updated: March 1, 2011 03:31 PM EST
Almost everyone has trouble snoozing without the familiar sounds, smells and other cues that help us doze off at home. (©iStockphoto.com/Brasil2) Almost everyone has trouble snoozing without the familiar sounds, smells and other cues that help us doze off at home. (©iStockphoto.com/Brasil2)


By Michael Breus, Ph.D
From Ideas That Spark

Q. I always have trouble sleeping when I travel, and it makes it harder to enjoy my vacation. Any tips?

A. Almost everyone has trouble snoozing without the familiar sounds, smells, textures and other subconscious cues that help us doze off at home. Still, you can get a good night's rest wherever you are. Here's how:

On a plane: Support your head with a c-shaped pillow (try one made from heat-sensitive foam) or wrap two airline pillows in a blanket to create your own. For slumber-friendly silence, try noise-cancellation headphones, which emit sound-blocking frequencies. Low-tech foam earplugs also work. 

In the car: Want to nap while someone else drives? Tune out traffic din with a white-noise CD and block out headlights with a blackout mask.

At a hotel: Several hotels offer special sleep amenities at no extra cost. For example, the Crowne Plaza chain provides quiet zones (no housekeeping activities between 9 p.m. and 10 a.m. and no families with children) as well as sleep CDs with relaxation tips and supercomfy beds. Wherever you stay, ask for a room away from the street and elevators, and set the thermostat at a sleep-inducing 68 degrees. For good measure, don't forget to pack a calming lavender spray so you can spritz your pillow.

At a friend's house: If possible, take a warm bath before retiring. This induces slumber better than sleep medication, according to studies. If you get up to go to the bathroom, avoid turning on the light, which halts melatonin production, waking you up. Instead, pack an ambient night-light, which won't have that effect.

Expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., is the author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (Dutton Adult)

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