Well-Being//

How to Prioritize Your Sleep When You’re Traveling

From packing an eye mask to trying a “4-7-8” breathing exercise, these tricks will help you clock in the rest you need to stay focused and energized when you’re on the road.

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Shutterstock

Good sleep is widely known to be vital for your well-being: Science shows that when it comes to improving your mood, staying focused and productive, and feeling your healthiest, getting quality rest is essential. But when you’re traveling for work, clocking in your regular seven to nine hours can be a challenge — and that’s where Microsteps come in. Sometimes the tiniest habits and shifts in routine can help you get those restful hours, even when you’re traveling across time zones.

We asked our Thrive community for the tips and tricks that have helped them prioritize sleep while traveling. Which of these will you try the next time you’re on the road?

Set a time when you’ll put your work away

“I travel domestically anywhere between 46-48 weeks each year, so I’m always spending at least a night or two each week in a hotel, usually in a different time zone. One thing I swear by is completely separating from work at least a half hour before going to sleep. It’s easy to reply to email even after you shut the lights off, but having the established boundary helps clear my mind.”

—Sean M., real estate executive, Boston, MA

Wear your favorite hoodie

“To help me sleep better when traveling, I sleep in my favorite oversized sweatshirt that I wear when I’m relaxing at home. It gives me feelings of familiarity and comfort, which allows me to rest more peacefully and relax fully. It often feels like I have a small piece of home with me.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO 

Eat an early dinner

“I prioritize sleep when I travel by making my dinner reservations earlier in the evening rather than later. Enjoying an early dinner increases the likelihood of a better night’s sleep by allowing my body to have a sufficient amount of  time to digest the meal before lying down.”

—Helen Agresti, registered dietitian and nutritionist, Erie, PA

Spray lavender on your pillow

“I find it helpful to have a relaxing routine before bed when I travel. I spray lavender on my pillow and pajamas, put my phone on airplane mode, put away my devices, and listen to white noise.”

—Giancarlo Molero, founder, Miami, FL

Bring a token from home

“To sleep more soundly when I’m traveling, I like to pack a nostalgic ‘token’ from home — maybe a book I read often, or a playlist that makes me think of home. This roots me in familiarity even when I’m in a hotel room or on a plane. Also, neck pillows, noise-cancellation headphones, and portable slippers are bonus accessories!” 

—Rachel Sammons, copywriter, Orlando, FL

Journal before bed

“I travel for business a lot, and I always find the key to a good night’s sleep, which is critical in the events industry I work in, is writing down any thoughts on my mind before bed. I also stay hydrated and put on a calming podcast to fall asleep to.”

—Nick Peacock-Smith, event director, New York, NY

Pack a sleep mask

“I always bring my sleep mask and some essential oils to help me relax and sleep well. I also try to stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid any sugary or caffeinated food and drinks after lunchtime to help my body adjust to the different daily routine.”

—Lennis Perez, engineer and wellness consultant, Austin TX

Open the window

“When I’m staying in hotels and want a good night’s sleep, the first thing I do is open a door or window to allow fresh air to circulate throughout the room, lifting the stagnation that most rooms have. Fresh air equals good sleep.”

—Laura Vida, M.A., Feng Shui expert and life coach, Sedona, AZ

Do yoga

“Whether I’m traveling for business or pleasure, there is nothing better than acclimatizing with sleep. I find that yoga stretches create an opportunity to destress and recharge after a hectic day of travel. The calming effect on both my mind and body sets the stage for connecting in a new time zone.”

—Trish Tonaj, certified personal trainer, Toronto, Canada

Pack a neck pillow and a small ball

“I try and pack light, but a neck pillow is a must. I don’t lug a blanket, but I always layer, and never leave home without a pashmina to wrap myself in. I also travel with a small yoga ball that I move from various pressure points at my back, neck, and shoulders. Just hold and feel the tension release. It feels so good!”

—Michaela Guzy, founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet, New York, NY

Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique

“The 4-7-8 breathing technique always helps me sleep when I’m traveling. It essentially involves breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds. A few of those and I’m usually out!”

—Sean M., real estate executive, Boston, MA

Adjust your clock in advance

“I travel a ton, and the single best way to deal with jet lag is to change your clocks, and change the subject. I change all of my clocks and calendar manually before I leave, not after I arrive. Then I never discuss the time difference with anyone again. Jet lag is real, but how we relate to it is a mental game. I often find people playing the ‘What time is it back home?’ game, which keeps your mind occupied with how much sleep you’re missing. Instead, talk about the fun things, like what you’ll do in the new city, or how excited you are. Your jet lag will disappear.”  

—Liam Alexander, creative director, New York, NY 

Count backwards from 50

“When I climb into bed, I read a book for 10-15 minutes. Then, to fall asleep, I slow my breaths, beginning with deep inhales and exhales, clearing my headspace, and counting down from 50 backwards.”

—Mandy Murry, writer, adventurer, and innkeeper, Asheville, NC

Create a consistent bedtime routine 

“I’m a public speaker, so I travel every week. To sleep well while I am traveling, I create the same environment as at home. This environment includes non-feather pillows — most hotels will swap them out — the room temperature set to 65 degrees, and listening to the the Calmcast stress reduction app so I have the same relaxation soundtrack everywhere I go.”

—William Arruda, motivational speaker, New York, NY

Dress comfortably

“With a 15-hour journey to LAX, 14 to Dubai, 28 to London, and a mere eight hours to Singapore, I always travel with my own feather pillow and pack it in a vacuum bag in my carry-on. I wear a scarf, which I use as a blanket, and a hooded pullover to cover my face whilst sleeping, and rub a sleep oil under my nose! And even when flying, I keep to my usual pre-sleep routine and change into soft, comfortable clothing.”

—Anna Bickmore-Hutt, positive psychology and well-being coach, Sydney, Australia

Give yourself a sound bath

“Because travel and airports can be stressful, I’ve recently gotten into sound baths. I’ve downloaded several of my favorites from Healing Vibrations — Brain Tingles is my all-time favorite — and The Mindful Movement on my YouTube app, and Donna D’Cruz’s Sleep Bedations on Spotify. They are a game-changer in helping me sleep. Most of the time, I drift off to sleep and feel like the most calm person on the plane thereafter.”

—Michaela Guzy, founder of OhThePeopleYouMeet, New York, NY

Do you have a go-to tip that helps you prioritize sleep when you’re traveling? Share it with us in the comments!

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