Sleep is hard on the road. Each hotel room is a different environment from your normal sleep environment. This makes it tough to stick to the routine as you prep for a good night's sleep on the road. Throw in a few time zone changes and you can consider your sleep ruined. Here are 7 tricks that I use when I enter a hotel room to set myself up for sleep success:
1. Unplug Unnecessary Electronics:
The first thing I do when I enter a hotel room is unplug the alarm clock. The light from these digital clocks seem innocent but it's more than enough light pollution to interrupt your sleep without you knowing it. Additionally, there is a good chance that the alarm hasn't been shut off from the previous guest. This can potentially set you up for a rude awakening at a time that you don't want to be waking. Another thing to consider is unplugging the television. I try to avoid turning the TV on when I stay in a hotel room. This is a slippery slope because it's all too easy to fall asleep as you're watching Sports Center for the fourth time. This is a recipe for an interrupted and low quality sleep.
2. Travel With Black Tape:
You would be surprised at how a hotel room can be lit up from sneaky sources of light pollution. Two of the biggest offenders in this category are the peephole on the door and the green or red dot light on the fire alarm. Traveling with a roll of black theater or electrical tape is a great solution to this light pollution problem. Place a small square of this black tape over the peephole on the door and on the dot light of the fire alarm for a more sleep-friendly hotel room.
3. Block The Light From The Hallway With A Towel:
Next time you check into your hotel room, shut all of the lights off, close the curtains and look at how much light streams in from the hallway under the door. The solution to this is simple: Place a towel across the bottom of the doorway.
4. Use The Privacy Sign:
The privacy sign is there for a reason - take advantage. The last thing you need is a hotel staffer knocking on your door while you're in a restful sleep. Throw that privacy sign on the door upon arrival to make sure there's no confusion.
5. Shut The Shades:
This may seem obvious but sometimes if it's dark outside it's easy to forget to pull the blackout shades shut. This is an important one to cover all of your bases.
6. Turn Down The Thermostat:
Most hotels tend to be set at 70 degrees fahrenheit when you walk in. Drop that down to somewhere between 66-68 degrees fahrenheit for a better sleep temperature. A cool room is a better environment for the body while sleeping. Everyone is different so find your sweet spot under 70 degrees. If the thermostat has a fan option, place that on low or medium. This should help avoid the "auto" fan setting which can be disruptive as it turns on and off throughout the night.
7. Sleep On The Floor:
I know this sounds crazy but all hotels have different mattresses with varying levels of firmness. A mattress that is more on the firm side tends to be best for most people to stay away from compromised sleeping postures. Additionally, your body gets used to a certain sleep surface so when a new surface is introduced it can make it hard to stick to normal sleep patterns. One solution for this mattress dilemma is to call guest services and order two extra comforters/blankets. Fold the two over in the size of a twin bed and place them on the floor. Use this to sleep on and then use the comforter from the bed to cover up with. I'll bet you'll be surprised at how comfortable this can be.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, spent 6 seasons as Head Strength & Conditioning coach of the Lakers and is renowned nationally for his evidence-based and scientific approach to training, nutrition and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
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