How to Manage Insomnia While Traveling

5 min read

It seems the worst of the Covid pandemic is behind us and the skies are opening up again. Far-flung destinations that were off limits a year ago are now possibilities. However, the ever constant companion of long haul travel is jet lag. Although, if I’m honest, a long road trip can mess up my sleep patterns if I’m not careful. That’s why it’s important to have a plan to manage insomnia while traveling. 

Sleeping poorly while traveling, whether for work or pleasure, can leave you exhausted for the day you had planned. Sleeping on a road trip or an overnight flight is a sure way to wake up groggy, drained and cranky. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Continue reading to learn more about why travel affects our sleep patterns and how to get a great night’s sleep while traveling.

Tiredness from travel

Even when on vacation, traveling can cause physical and mental stress. You may experience what is known as travel fatigue. Travel fatigue can leave you exhausted, give you headaches and cause further sleeplessness. ‌

Here are some of the factors that can contribute to travel fatigue:

  1. Flight or travel phobia
  2. Stress about travel details such as packing, timing & logistics
  3. Concerns about unforeseen problems that may arise during the trip
  4. Car sickness or plane sickness
  5. Standing in long queues
  6. Travel disruptions
  7. Inability to sleep on planes, trains or in cars
  8. Pressurized airplane cabins causing dehydration, bloating, constipation & respiratory conditions
  9. Travel-related disruptions to your eating & drinking patterns
  10. Sitting for long periods causing stiffness & pain.

prayer for safe travel

Jet lag

Jet lag is a sleep disorder that occurs when traveling across three or more time zones. When you arrive at your destination, you may discover that your circadian rhythm is still operating in the time zone in which you began. As a result, you may feel out of sync with your current time zone. This usually happens when you fly long distances; however, it can also happen if you travel quickly enough by car or train.

Jet lag symptoms include fatigue, fogginess, gastrointestinal issues and a general feeling of malaise. Jet lag usually lasts a few days, but it can last several weeks. It worsens when traveling from west to east or across multiple time zones. ‌

Disruption to your schedule

Changing your regular schedule can lead to sleep issues. Simply changing when you eat or sleep, for example, can be extremely disruptive to your body and mind. This is especially challenging on business trips when you want to be fully rested and present.

Change, change, change

Simply being in a different environment or bed can interfere with your sleep and relaxation. You may have personal experience with this, but sleep studies have also proven it’s impact. Even if the unfamiliar environment appears to be very comfortable, such as a spa or resort, it can have a negative impact on your sleep. Thankfully, this usually feels better after the first night in a new place.

God’s rest

Thankfully, God knows a lot about rest. He rested after His creation, He build the Sabbath into national laws of His people and Jesus even managed to sleep on a boat in the middle of a storm!

Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!”

Matthew 8: 23-27

God wants you to be rested and refreshed for the amazing life that He wants to share with you. With that in mind, here are some ideas to help you when travelling.

Managing insomnia while traveling

Every person is unique – some things that work for you in one situation might not work in another. Furthermore, certain people may be more sensitive to certain things than others. Take all of this advice and tailor it to your specific needs and situation.

Here are some suggestions for sleeping better while traveling:

  1. Attempt to reduce stress ahead of time. Make an effort to prepare for the trip in a timely but stress-free manner. Anxiety about your trip can cause you to lose sleep and ruin it before it even starts. Anxiety caused by a lack of preparation can cause you to lose sleep during your trip.
  2. Make a plan to ensure that you get enough sleep. If you know you won’t be able to sleep on buses, trains, planes or in cars, book somewhere to sleep on your route. If you must travel for several days, consider staying in a hotel or with relatives. While red-eye flights can save money, they may not be worth the hit to your energy level the next day.
  3. Dress appropriately for the occasion. Wear loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely. Bring some layers in case it gets cold so you remain comfortable.
  4. Find a good spot to unwind. Depending on where you are attempting to sleep, you may not have much control over your posture. However, if you do, try to sit as comfortably as possible. Avoid positions that bunch up your body and add to your stress.
  5. Bring anything that will help you sleep. Packing sleep masks, headphones or earplugs to block out lights and noises can make a significant difference.
  6. Try out the military sleep method.
  7. Pack a pillow or make your own. Bring a travel pillow or clothing that can be rolled up to make a pillow for yourself. Again, supporting your head will significantly assist you in relaxing.
  8. Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your trip. It will assist your body in remaining resilient during various travel transitions.
  9. Eat healthily. Consume foods that will nourish and fuel you. Avoid heavy foods that will make you feel sluggish and tired.
  10. Keep an eye on your caffeine and alcohol intake. Both alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep. Try not to consume too much of either so that you can rest when necessary.
  11. Get your body moving. When possible, make an effort to move, stretch, or do light exercise. Most modes of transportation necessitate extended periods of inactivity, which can harm your body and disrupt your sleep cycle.

Wherever you travel, the team here at Glorify hope you have a safe trip and return rested and refreshed.

Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

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