When I travel, I gotta sleep. There’s no way around it. No matter how many things I want to see, no matter what I want to do, if I don’t get plenty of sleep every single night I might as well stay home.
So I think about sleeping when I plan my trips. When? For how long? On what? Under what? Sleep is a many splendored thing–I need to be comfortable, which means I need to plan pretty carefully.
Dark and Quiet
I need moderate dark and reasonable quiet in order to sleep well.
For me, that means I try to get a room facing away from the street if I’m staying in a big city hotel or highway-facing motor inn. That helps to keep the noise to a minimum. I also prefer to be about midway down the hallway from the elevator in multi-story accommodations. I like to be able to walk to my room easily, but I don’t love hearing the elevator clank and clang and beep all night.
I always wear earplugs when I sleep, so I don’t need absolute silence in my room.
Lightwise, I want to be able to draw curtains to shut out morning light. Whenever possible, I avoid east-facing rooms. Sunrise and I are not buddies. But I don’t love blackout curtains–they mess up my internal clock. If I get them in my motel room (and if I’m staying in Reno or Vegas, it’s nigh on impossible to avoid them), I make sure not to close them all the way.
Soft and Warm
Unless I’ve got no other choice, I prefer a room with some flavor of central heating rather than a portable space heater. One (often overly) warm spot in an ice-cold room does not work for me, as I routinely get up more than once per night to use the bathroom.
“Soft” mostly means that I prefer a bed with a newer or specialized mattress. My preference is Tempur-Pedic(tm), but I can’t often afford the kind of room that boasts a top-end bed. Every now and again if I splurge I can afford something with a Sleep Number(tm), which is nice because my husband has different mattress preferences.
What doesn’t work so well for me are the slabs of plywood or concrete that masquerade as mattresses in down-rent Motel 6es and the like. So either I suck it up and budget for a nice enough room to guarantee a decent bed, or I drag my own mattress pad along. (Obviously this is a road-trip strategy.) I’ve got a queen-sized foam mattress pad that comes traveling with me when necessary.
Same goes for blankets–ultra-cheap motels often don’t have heavy enough covers for me, especially in winter. So I bring my own.
My Weary Head
BYO pillow if you want a good night’s sleep on the road. Accept no substitutes.
(I often sleep on hotel pillows so that I can bring their relative comfort to you, my readers. But not at cheap motels anymore. ‘Cause ow.)
Drugs and Other Sleep Aids
Are my friend. Whether I’m currently using melatonin or zolpidem, I bring a trip-long supply and use it regularly. On the road is not the time or place to decide that chemical sleep aids are evil and must be deleted from my repertoire.
Though I don’t use such things, same goes for music, sound generators, TV, aromatherapy, or whatever else you use to help you sleep at home. Bring it with you on your trip to make sure that your sleep environment is as close to what you’ve got at home as you can manage.
Long and Deep
I need to sleep at least 10 hours each night–12 is better when I’m traveling. Yeah, that’s a lot of sleep. That means I’ve either got to go to bed early and forgo whatever night life my destination has to offer, or I’ve got to sleep late in the mornings.
Because I am *ahem* not a morning person, I usually choose to sleep in. This means that I miss things. If you want to see Haleakala without a coating of dense fog, you pretty much have to see it at sunrise. So usually on each major trip I take, if there are cool things to do and see that must be done in the early morning, I’ll pick precisely one of them. I’ll choose one morning to get up early and play, and I’ll suck up the hit to my body and mind.
This can be a bummer sometimes. But if I try to push this limit and do two or three early mornings in one trip, the price I pay gets too high (like I won’t be able to function any more for the duration of the drip and for several days after getting home).
On the other hand, if I pack and plan well, stick to my boundaries, and get that good sleep, I often find that I’m able to do and see more than I might have imagined. Which is just so cool!