5 Ways Travel Can Impact Your Sleep

October 20, 2022 | Casper Editorial Team

For many of us, travel can be one of life’s great joys, taking us to untold adventures and new horizons. But as anyone who’s ever encountered jet lag knows, travel can also take a toll on your mind and body.1 Lengthy stints at the airport, uncomfortable flights, and ventures into new time zones can disrupt your sleep cycle before, during, and long after your trip. 

Thus, despite any excitement you may have about your journey, it’s not uncommon to spend a few hours staring at the ceiling because you can’t sleep before travel or after you arrive.

What do you do if you cant sleep before travel? How can you ensure you still catch enough winks as your travels unfold? By knowing how travel affects your ability to achieve deep, restful sleep, you can plan ahead and take steps to prevent these pitfalls. Keep reading for a comprehensive on how travel impacts your sleep pattern and what you can do to ensure better sleep quality.

#1 Travel Fatigue

Whether by plane, train, or automobile, even travel you’re excited about can be both physically and mentally taxing. Travel fatigue is the culmination of internal and external stress, two hazards that are nearly impossible to avoid while on the road.2 

Possible stressors while traveling may include:

  • Fear of flying or other methods of traveling
  • Anxiety about issues arising during the trip
  • Motion sickness
  • Travel delays
  • Inability to get good sleep while traveling
  • Irregular or unhealthy food and drink consumption
  • Uncomfortable seating positions
  • Dehydration, bloating, constipation, and respiratory tract issues associated with pressurized airplane cabins

These factors and more can drain your energy and disrupt your normal sleep cycle––even before your trip. But you don’t just have to lie down and take it. Long flights, trains, and car ride present excellent opportunities for travelers to sleep off their travel fatigue. That said, many find it difficult to sleep in upright seats and loud, crowded environments. If that’s you, here are some measures you can take to get some good sleep:

  • Sleep masks can help you to drift off easier when lighting is out of your control. The Snoozewear Sleep Mask by Casper blocks out light while providing soft, pressure-free comfort. 
  • A natural sleep aid, melatonin has been shown to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help get your sleep cycle back on track.3
  • An ergonomic backrest pillow can create more comfortable seating situations, even when you’re stuck in economy. 

#2 Jet Lag

When you’re traveling between time zones, it naturally takes time before your internal clock syncs with your new time zone. The irregular sleep patterns that occur during this adjustment period is referred to as jet lag.1 If you can’t sleep after a vacation or are having trouble sleeping on vacation in a new time zone, jet lag may be the culprit.

Symptoms of jet lag include:

  • Disturbed sleep, such as insomnia, early waking, or excessive sleepiness
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or functioning at your usual level
  • Stomach problems, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Mood changes

One of the best ways to minimize jet lag is to adjust to the new time zone before your trip. This can include gradually changing your bedtime according to the time difference or sleeping on your flight. Melatonin can also help adjust your circadian rhythm.3 

#3 Schedule Changes

Even when jet lag and travel fatigue aren’t keeping you up, a general change to your bedtime routine can disrupt your sleep cycle. For example, while on vacation, you may go to bed much later than you’re normally used to. Your body may not respond to that right away, instead waking up at your normal hour. The result is fatigue throughout the day.

The same effect can occur when you overload your day with activities. Overstimulation and insufficient time budgeted for sleep can negatively impact sleep schedules.

The key to solving this issue is simply to keep sleep a priority, even amid all the activities. By leaving enough time for rest, you’ll enjoy seeing all those sights even more the next day.

#4 Changes to Diet and Exercise Routines

A chance to break away from your regular routine is often a welcome part of travel. That said, routine is a big part of your sleep cycle—especially when it comes to diet and exercise. When you indulge in food more and partake in exercise less, you may experience a decline in the quality of your sleep and overall energy levels. 

If you can’t sleep on vacation, consider visiting the hotel gym or exercising via walking tours. Exercising during the day can positively impact your sleep schedule4 and potentially offset some of your more indulgent meals.

#5 Unfamiliar Sleep Conditions

Comfort is one of the most important aspects of quality sleep. At Casper, we prioritize comfort by providing a wide range of mattresses tailor-made for your body’s needs. Unfortunately, you may not always find that same comfort on the road.

No matter the quality of your hotel’s mattress, familiarity is a huge part of comfort. Familiarity goes far beyond just comfort, too––lighting, temperature, noise, and much more are all crucial factors in determining your comfort in a new environment. Especially on your first night, it can be difficult to sleep in an unfamiliar setting. This is called the “First Night Effect” and is understood to be an evolutionary survival trait.5

Bring Comfort Along With Casper

You may not be able to bring your cozy bed mattress on the road, but you can take some measures to replicate your regular sleep environment. On your next journey, consider bringing some of these sleep products with you:

  • A packable blanket that you regularly sleep with
  • An essential oil diffuser that produces a comforting, familiar scent
  • A night light that creates a familiar ambiance, such as Casper’s Glow Night Light

Whether you’re at home or on the road, Casper wants to give you the gift of quality sleep. 

Sources: 

  1. Mayo Clinic. Jet Lag Disorder. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/jet-lag/symptoms-causes/syc-20374027
  2. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue: A Comprehensive Management Plan for Sport Medicine Physicians and High-Performance Support Teams. https://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Fulltext/2012/05000/Jet_Lag_and_Travel_Fatigue__A_Comprehensive.11.aspx
  3. Mayo Clinic. Melatonin. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-melatonin/art-20363071
  4. Sleep Foundation. Exercise and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity/exercise-and-sleep
  5. National Institute of Health. Night Watch in One Brain Hemisphere during Sleep Associated with the First-Night Effect in Humans. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27112296/