22nd Feb 2018
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The scientific reason you have trouble sleeping on holiday
The scientific reason you have trouble sleeping on holiday

You’ve arrived at your hotel after a long flight and you lay down on your plush bed ready for a refreshing sleep, only you can’t sleep. Why? Scientists have discovered the reason.

According to sleep researchers, your brain knows the difference between sleeping in the comfort of your home and sleeping in rented digs. It may have something to do with a change of hemispheres, or it could simply be that the sleep environment to which we are accustomed is missing.

“Sleep researchers and clinicians have long known about the ‘first night effect’,” sleep expert Dr Melisa Moore told Condé Nast Traveler.

“The study suggests that one of our brain hemispheres sleeps less deeply the first night in a new environment. This hemispheric difference might cause us to have difficulty falling asleep.”

Dr Moore thinks that our sleep patterns, including the way we set ourselves up to sleep, have been ingrained since early childhood.

She suggests that we try to replicate, as much as possible, the sleep environment we have at home. That is, if you usually sleep facing a wall, or sleep with three pillows, you should do the same when you’re on holiday.

“After every sleep cycle, our brains briefly wake up, and generally, we are so good at getting ourselves back to sleep that we don’t notice,” said Dr Moore.

“If what we have at bedtime – two pillows, TV, sound machine – isn’t there when we wake up, it may be more difficult to return to sleep.”

can't sleep hotel room

There are other tactics to secure a good night’s sleep in a strange land.

“Try to wake in the morning in your new destination rather than sleeping in and get as much sunlight as possible first thing by going outside or opening the shades in your room,” she says.

“Some people stay in the same hotel chains or bring their own pillows or pyjamas. There are white-noise apps for smartphones or even travel-sized sound machines that can help. Keep the environment consistent throughout the night. For example, don’t have your sound machine app turn off after four hours.”

“Avoid caffeine from late afternoon until bedtime and avoid electronics about an hour before bed.”

It all sounds like common sense, but adopting these methods will go a long way to ensuring a better night’s sleep on your holiday – and a better holiday.

Do you have tips for sleeping well on holiday? Why not share them with our members?

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