How much do we love a good sleep in when we’re travelling? What if you could have an even better sleep? Usually holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, but this isn’t always the case. With such easy access to quick travel across long distances, our bodies can struggle to adjust to working on a new time schedule. This is a phenomenon that has come to be known as jet-lag. This can quickly deteriorate your holiday experience for reasons we'll get into in a minute. But in short, having a better holiday experience can come down to simply having better sleep!
Did you know that around 93% of travellers will experience jet-lag at some point. That’s a lot of us! It’s due to the rapid change in our sleep-wake pattern, known as our circadian rhythm. This is like an internal clock that signals to us when we need to sleep or wake-up.
Jet-lag symptoms can vary from person to person, but studies have shown that it more often affects women. A common misconception about jet-lag is that it’s mostly jut feeling a little tired on our first day in a new destination. In fact, symptoms of jet-lag can manifest in many ways that affect us on a deeper physiological level. Jet-lag can cause you to experience symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, difficulty concentrating and even gastrointestinal problems. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a good way to ruin a holiday to me!
Sometimes jet-lag lasts only one or two days. Sometimes it sticks around for the duration of our trip, making it hard to enjoy our time due to fatigue. In short: Poor sleep = poor holiday! Thankfully, there are a few ways we can combat this. Since the symptoms of jet-lag are caused by disruptions to our circadian rhythm, we can ease them by taking steps to get a better sleep. Read on to learn our science-backed sleep tips to have a better sleep and combat jet-lag.
Tip 1: Set your clock to your destination time
Seems a bit odd, right? But setting your clock to your destination time a few days before leaving for your trip is a game-changer! In short, this gives you a better idea of what time your destination is operating on. This way, you can start to adjust your schedule before even leaving for your trip. For example, let’s say your destination is 5 hours ahead. At 7am when they’re waking up, it’s still the middle of the night for you. This is often not something we think of when travelling.
Now, I’m not telling you to get up and start your day at 2am the day before travelling. But you could start with waking up at 6am one day. The next day, maybe you get up at 5am. You should also start going to bed a little earlier in the few days before your departure so that it’s not such a huge shock to your system when you leave. This will give your circadian rhythm time to adjust, which in turn will improve your sleep routine over your trip. This method is great because you can easily adjust it to the time-zone of your destination. And, as we all now know, better sleep = better holiday!
Tip 2: Download some relaxing sleep music
Whether travelling by bus, train, plane or horse and carriage, the travel experience can take it’s toll on the body. During long journeys, it can be hard to sleep with all of the hustle and bustle, the rattling of the train carriage or the hum of the plane engine. We recommend downloading some relaxing music for your trip to help you zone out and drift off. Not only will music help to drown out the noise, but it can also help your brain to relax, resulting in an overall better sleep.
Studies have shown that music with a tempo of around 60-80bpm are most effective at helping our brains and bodies to relax. Relaxing music can help to calm the autonomic nervous system, which contributes to deeper levels of relaxation. There is evidence that listening to music can reduce levels of cortisol, a.k.a the stress hormone. Many sleep studies also show that listening to music can improve sleep efficiency. This means that your body will enter a deeper level of sleep, so despite the shake-up in your routine, you will wake up feeling more rested.
An extension to this tip is to download your sleep music. By downloading your music, you will always have access to it. It won’t matter if you’re at an altitude of 10,000 metres or on a long-distance bus ride somewhere out of service. You can still pop in your headphones and zone out to calming, sleep-inducing music.
Tip 3: Take your own pillowcase
I know this sounds odd but hear me out! We have nothing against hotel pillowcases, but bringing your own pillowcase on your travels can actually help you to have a better sleep. Creature comforts have the ability to put us in a state of relaxation, which is ideal for the body when going to sleep. Arriving at a hotel to find their pillow case is a different texture to what you’re used to can be off-putting and irritating when trying to fall asleep.
If your luggage space allows for it, we’d even recommend taking this one a step further and bringing along your own pillow! Believe it or not, your head recognises your own pillow. This sense of familiarity can help your body to feel more in-routine than it might otherwise feel on a holiday, and you’ll be able to sleep better for it.
Tip 4: Be comfortable for a better sleep
This one’s a no-brainer, right? But you’d be surprised how many people don’t take their comfort level into consideration when preparing to board a long flight. We’ve all had a flight where we were constantly bothered by too-tight pants, or perhaps a button or zipper poking into our skin the whole time. Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing on your flight can hugely increase your comfort level, thus making it easier to drift off.
Another massive cause for discomfort on planes is temperature. Planes can get really cold when at high altitudes, and sometimes airlines don’t offer complimentary blankets when the lights go down. When we are cold, our bodies naturally will struggle to fall asleep. This is because our heart rate naturally increases to improve our blood flow. An increased heart-rate signals to the brain that we are awake and alert.
Thankfully, this is an easy one to combat. If you’re not already wearing socks on your flight, it’s a great idea to pack a pair with you to put on come lights out. We also recommend bringing a scarf in your carry on. Scarves are an amazing all-rounder when travelling, but in this case it can act as a light blanket to keep you nice and warm for your in-flight snooze.
Tip 5: Use a Sleep Mask
This is our absolute top tip for a good night’s sleep when travelling or not. Sleep masks are actually proven to decrease the amount of time spent between falling asleep and reaching REM sleep, and increase the amount of time spent in REM sleep.
They are great to block out light, which is especially helpful when trying to sleep in a public place such as on a bus or plane. They’re also amazing for when you’re staying in a room with curtains that just don’t quite cover the whole window. You all know what I’m talking about! I know some people have a bad impression of sleep masks, and we can thank the cheap airline-issued polyester eye coverings for that. However, we really recommend giving them a second chance, and investing in a good-quality sleep mask.
At Midnight Crusade, our sleep masks are made from a soft, cruelty free satin material. They also completely block out light thanks to the multiple layers of coverage and soft filling. With lightweight, breathable material and a satin-covered stretchy strap, they are extremely comfortable and relaxing to wear. You can shop our sleep masks in a range of colours to suit anyone’s taste here.
Tip 6: Create a comfortable sleep environment
There are additional steps you can take to create a relaxing sleep environment for yourself. One great tip is to take a lavender-scented lotion or hand cream on board. We would use this to moisturise our hands and dab on our temples before settling in to sleep. Lavender oil is shown to calm the nervous system and have a positive effect on sleep quality. The Midnight Crusade Ready to Go travel bottle set offers a variety of carry-on friendly containers for you to carry your lotion on board with you. For this particular purpose we recommend the flip lid bottle or mini jar (both are included in the set), depending on how much you would like to bring!
We also recommend following steps that you would take in your ordinary sleep routine. This could be any number of things, such as brushing your teeth before bed. The idea here is to be doing whatever it is you ordinarily do to wind down before bed. This brings your body into a sense of routine, which will send cues to the brain that it’s time to switch off and get some sleep.