• Martha Lewis

The Insider's Guide to Sleeping Well While Traveling

It's easy to miss sleep while traveling, especially over the holidays. Whether your flight is delayed or you're staying up late to visit with family or you're flying across multiple time zones, you can end up coming back home completely exhausted. And then it's right back to work with no time to recover all the sleep you've missed.

So here are some tips to travel well so that you sleep well and come home feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Stay Hydrated

It’s very easy to become dehydrated from a day of air travel; both because of the altitude and the recycled air. Because of this, it is important to ensure that you increase your liquid intake about 24—48 hours before departure. Bring a large water bottle of your own to stay hydrated. This will prevent grogginess when you awaken from sleeping on the plane.

Always avoid the Red-Eye

It may seem like a good idea at the time as you think you’ll sleep and arrive at your destination ready and raring to go, but the reality is usually very different. The seats are not comfortable, your neck gets sore, there is a lot of environmental noise, and you may be tempted to stay up all night watching the in-flight movies.

Plus, being on the plane is only a portion of the travel experience. You have to travel to the airport hours in advance, maybe transfer planes, and wait for your luggage. By the time you arrive at your hotel, you’ll have such a sleep debt that this alone will take you days to recover from.

Travel Prepared

Odd sounds and inconvenient light are two of the biggest sleep-robbing culprits in a hotel. There are a few things you should pack to eliminate distractions and make your nights far more comfortable.

It’s worth investing in a decent light-eliminating eye mask; one that you’ve practiced using for at least a week before your flight so you are comfortable sleeping with it on. Or travel with black electrical tape and a small pair of scissors. Once you’ve turned out the lights for the night, you can block out any and all other small things that emit light, like the phone or the TV.

To prevent noise interruptions, bring along some earplugs. Or, if noise is a huge issue for you, consider investing in a portable white noise machine to block out unwelcome sounds.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

It can be tempting to have a couple of glasses of wine on the flight, but just remember to cut out the alcohol at least 2 hours before you’ll want to go to bed or it will interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Likewise, try not to guzzle large amounts of caffeine to try to stay awake, This, too, will make it harder for you to fall asleep when you are ready for bed. Most people need at least 4 to 6 hours to metabolize caffeine, so keep that in mind when you are thinking about your ideal bedtime when you arrive.

Time Your Meals

Food is another thing to consider while traveling. Eating a big meal too close to when you want to fall asleep will impact your night. Try to shoot for no food at least 2 hours before you want to sleep.

Chamomile tea right before bed can be an effective sleep aid and the scent of lavender is a natural sleep enhancer. Try carrying a lavender candle, a scented facemask, or some essential oil.

Pick A Quiet Room

Some parts of the hotel can be quieter than others. For a good nights sleep, try requesting a room on a higher floor, away from the elevators. This should help block out street noise and foot traffic. And don’t forget to put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign!

Stick to your Bedtime Routine

The excitement of travel can leave your mind buzzing when it’s time to go to sleep. So it's important to stick to your bedtime routine as closely as you possibly can while you travel. Your body and brain are deeply in tune with this cuing system, so it will help calm down and signal the body that nighttime sleep is near.


Short naps during the day can be helpful in paying back some of the sleep debt acquired for the travel day, or poor sleep at night. Try to keep these naps in the early afternoon so they don’t impact the sleep pressure needed before bed.

It’s also wise to keep them to about 30 minutes. This will rejuvenate you, but won’t let you slide into deep sleep, which will actually make you feel worse if you wake up during it.

I hope these tips help you get the sleep you need to enjoy your vacation to the fullest!

As always, if you struggle to sleep well, don't hesitate to get in touch! You can book a free 15-minute call here to talk about your sleep and some possible solutions.

Because "not being able to sleep is terrible. You have the misery of having partied all night without any of the satisfaction." -Lynn Johnston

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Martha Lewis, MS, APSC

Jackson Hole, WY



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MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this site and by Martha Lewis and guests are published for educational and informational purposes only, and are not intended as a diagnosis, treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Please consult a local physician or other health care professional for your specific health care and/or medical needs or concerns. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. Martha Lewis provides information based on her thorough education and encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Information provided on this website and the use by you of any products or services referenced on this website DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Martha Lewis. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.