Sleep is a precious commodity on normal days, and even moreso on the road. It may be hard to make it to the office after a bad night, but it’s even harder to go from sunrise to sunset among the temples of Angkor if you’ve already been up for three hours.
Start by improving your sleep hygiene at home before a trip. You can train yourself to go to bed roughly an hour earlier each night if you’re anticipating a time change, with apps like Timeshifter to help you get onto your new schedule. Try to minimize large meals within two hours of bedtime and screen time within an hour before tucking in. If you get used to a standard sleep routine before your travels, whether it’s a book, cup of tea, or essential oils spritzed on your pillow, it will be easier to signal to your body that it’s time to go to bed in a new location by following the same steps.
“Sleeping well is a challenge for many travelers; however, the solution doesn’t come in a bottle,” said Dr. Jennifer Martin, clinical psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist. “I always encourage people to think about what makes sleeping at home so much better, and bring as much of that experience with you as possible.”
Once you arrive at your destination, use an eye mask and earplugs to minimize any external interruptions and utilize the same routine you trained yourself into at home. If you’ve tried all this and you’re still tossing and turning, you may want to reach for some of these natural or over-the-counter remedies, but proceed carefully.
Self-described “blogger by day, physician by night” Dr. Nadeen White of The Sophisticated Life recommends testing out any sleep supplements at home before bringing them on the road, as you never know exactly how something new will affect you.
“Melatonin can be used to change the timing of a person’s circadian rhythms, but when taken at the wrong time, it can actually shift sleep timing in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Martin. “Using melatonin correctly is not easy and often requires input from a sleep specialist. The science to support other herbal remedies is thin, and some can interact with prescription drugs so should be used with caution and only after consulting with a doctor.”
No sleep aid is totally guaranteed to be without potential side effects or other drug interactions, and anything classified as a “dietary supplement” isn’t subject to the same level of FDA oversight as conventional food and drugs. Make sure to check with your physician before you start sampling.