Getting a good night’s rest in a hotel is often harder than it should be. The sheets are clean, the pillow is nice and soft but sometimes when we are away from home, no matter how exhausted we are when we head to bed, we still can’t get to sleep. Why is that?
Well, to be honest, the reasons are many and various. Strange noises, weird smells, ill-fitting curtains, noisy neighbours or simply an overstimulated mind could all be to blame.
Studies now suggest that when we sleep in an unfamiliar place for the first time, our brain simply refuses to shut down completely Instead, a ‘lookout’ region of our ol’ grey matter stays alert and primed for action. This, of course, makes sense for reasons of evolutionary survival. It doesn’t, however, help you if you got up early to catch a flight and need to be well rested.
Well, fortunately for you there are two things I know a lot about, sleep and travel. During my worldly wanders, I’ve stayed in more hotels than I care to remember. Over the years I’ve developed one or two coping strategies to increase my odds of getting a good night’s rest. And because I’m nice I’m going to share them with you now.
Do your research and book wisely
The easiest win when it comes to increasing your odds of a good night’s rest is to get your choice of hotel right in the first place.
In today’s information-saturated world it’s quite easy, with a little bit of work on your part, to find out quite a lot about the place you might stay in before you arrive.
Take to the web and read the reviews of your potential hotel carefully. Put on your deerstalker hat, think like Sherlock Holmes would and read between the lines. Don’t just focus on negative reviews, read the positive ones too.
Obviously, if reviews mention rooms were infested with rats then steer well clear. But also have a look and see if a previous guest mentioned how they enjoyed the ‘lively neighbourhood’ or that they ‘loved how close the nightlife was’. Sounds good right? But it could also mean a lot of late night noise. Have a good hard think to yourself if you’d appreciate that too.
Google Street View is an incredibly useful tool for familiarising yourself with a neighbourhood in advance. Take yourself on a virtual cruise past your potential hotel. If you can count three or four pubs and bars on the same road, then maybe make sure you ask for a room away from the road on booking.
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Avoid cabin fever
Humans are creatures of habit. Our brains develop associates and shortcuts. At home, we associate our bed with sleep. As it should be. And this helps us fall asleep quicker.
However, when we are staying in hotels we often use our bed as a multipurpose piece of furniture, anything from a makeshift office to a home cinema. We easily fall into the trap of catching up on emails and watching movies while sitting on the bed.
This is bad news when it comes to bedtime as our brain now associates our hotel bed with work and not sleep. So firstly, if your room has a desk please use it. Save the bed for bedtime.
Secondly, if you do have a lot of work to do when you’re in town, got outside and find a cafe or co-working space. Believe me, if you’ve spent the last five hours working, blogging or skyping from your hotel room it’s going to feel less like a place of rest and more like a prison.
For more handy hints and up to date advice on how to get a good night’s rest, at home or on the road, have a look at the Sleep – Advisor blog.
Pack for sleep success
There is one thing you learn quickly when travelling a lot. The star system used to rate hotels is a little bit of a joke. One country’s 3 stars can often turn out to be another’s 1 star. If you do rock up and find your room is barely habitable don’t be too timid to swap rooms and even hotels, but should that not be an option it helps to be a little bit prepared.
To take the edge off a booking mishap or even a booking nightmare, I always travel with a little bag of sleep accessories worth ten times their weight in gold.
Earplugs and an eye mask are absolute musts. Donning these two lightweight sleep aids creates an instant sensory deprivation chamber, blocking out light pollution from ill-fitting curtains and any unwanted sounds caused by over-amorous neighbours and paper thin walls.
Add to this a silk sleeping bag and you remove any ‘ick factor’ you may have about the cleanliness of the sheets.
My extra secret weapon is a little bottle of lavender oil, while I have no idea if there is any actual science behind the use of essential oils it seems to work for me. A few drops sprinkled on my pillow seems to mellow me out and help we catch the express train to sleepy town.
Well, there you have it travel fans, my top tips for getting a great night’s sleep the next time you check yourself in.
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