So since we can’t add another hour to our days, finding small windows of time to squeeze in a little extra sleep might be our most viable option.
Sleeping in an unfamiliar hotel room, on a layover, or even at your desk can help recoup rest when the day has worn you down.
Here are a few ideas for common situations when sleep escapes you.
Aside from flying first class or paying extra for a negligible amount of legroom, how can you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed?
Dress down. It’s all about the normcore. In other words, elastic is your friend. If you have no one to impress at the arrival gate (and no shame), throw on some sweats or yoga/running clothing and call it a flight. Carry on your suit, work shoes that weren’t going to work for running to catch a connection anyway, and a small spritz bottle of wrinkle-releasing spray to change into while you wait for your luggage to ride the carousel around.
Get a comfy pillow. Ideally, you’ve snagged a window seat for your red-eye flight and can curl up against it for the next eight hours. But if you’re stuck in the middle, invest in a travel pillow. Wear those U-shaped neck pillows backwards, so that your head won’t bob forward or sideways as the ride gets bumpy. Inflatable pillows allow softness adjustment. Add a sleep mask and headphones to the set for isolation.
Consume carefully. Skip the spicy bean burrito and second beer before your big trip–acid reflux is a sleep-disrupter. Other than food, popping a sleep aid could get you more rest. Don’t take new medication before talking to your doctor–but for many, just a half-dose of the drowsy versions of over-the-counter pain relievers or cold medicine can take enough of the edge off, without the stomach-roiling effects of onboard alcohol.
Dramamine makes the turbulence and wild bus drivers a little more smooth, and knocks most people out for a few hours. Melatonin, a natural sleep hormone, could also help you rest. Independent Traveler has more thoughts on when and when not to try sleep aids.
Some people get their best nights’ sleep in hotel rooms. Others are unsettled by the unfamiliar layout, noisy hall neighbors, and nagging sense that a black light would make the sheets look like a grindhouse film set. If you’re in the second camp, a business trip is exhausting. Here are a few ideas for better hotel shut-eye:
Circulate the air. Crack a window and turn the temperature down to the cool side, if you can. Bringing along a small fan creates both white noise and moving air that might help you sleep more soundly–and block out any strange environmental sounds (ahem, newlyweds in the suite next door).
Pack your own pillowcase. Avoid the scratchy, funny-smelling bedding that comes with your room by packing a sheet and/or pillowcase from home.
Don’t be shy. If the room isn’t accommodating to your own sleep style–the mattress is too soft, the elevator or ice machine is outside your door, the window faces the street, and so on–ask for a new room. asking for a room that’s been recently redone, for maximum comfort.
Don’t fight the (insomnia) feeling. “If you’re tossing and turning after 15 minutes, get up and get out of bed,” sleep researcher Rebecca Robbins told Conde Nast Traveler. “But keep the lights low, walk around, do some light stretching, or read a book.”
If another second of being awake at your desk feels like climbing a mental sand dune, you need to steal a work nap.
Make sure your company is cool with it. Sleeping on the job is a fairly progressive idea; we know it’s good to take naps, but the nine-to-five grind hasn’t completely caught on. If 20-30 minutes of your lunch break can be devoted to finding a good snooze spot, you’re probably good to go.
Find the right spot. Crashing in the lounge could look bad when it’s office tour day for your CEO’s key investors. Booking a 30-seat conference room for your personal napping needs is equally egregious. If you’re in an open office, you’ll have to get more creative–look for phone rooms or a supply closet to snuggle up in. And don’t forget the “DO NOT ENTER” sticky note on the door.
Set an alarm. Napping between 20 to 60 minutes catches your sleep cycle during its deepest, groggiest point. “The brief nap will sharpen your attention and motor skills, and you’ll wake up refreshed,” Natalie Dautovich, environmental scholar for the National Sleep Foundation, told Stephanie Vozza for Fast Company. A longer nap makes problem solving and creativity come easier.
You can plan an itinerary to immaculate detail, and still end up with awkward spaces of time waiting, or missing your departure and being forced to sleep in a public place. If you must, here’s how.
Safety first. The quietest, darkest spot in the terminal might be the best for a nap, but if you’re alone, it’s a bad idea. Stay near staffed counters and lights to ward off thieves. Keep your belongings locked and as close to you as possible, preferably between you and a wall. Just don’t obstruct anyone trying to get their jobs done with your campsite.
Dress in layers. The key to comfort in this miserable situation, according to travel blogger Amanda Kendle, is piling on a few layers before resigning to a spot on the floor or lounge area. Make a pillow out of rolled-up clothing, and be ready for shifting temperatures indoors. Draping a shawl or scarf over yourself adds a psychological layer to the vulnerability of sleeping in public.
Request a cot. Some airports keep cots on hand for stranded passengers dealing with weather cancellations. Ask nicely, and a cot might come your way.
Consult those who’ve been there. There are tricks and quirks to any airport, and chances are, someone’s had to sleep in each of them at some point before you. Donna McSherry’s Guide To Sleeping In Airports offers comprehensive info on tips and airport specifics.