I just got back from a vacation in Orlando, Florida, where I stayed with my spouse, Jake. We traveled with another couple and stayed at a Walt Disney resort for 8 days. I was excited to be away, and especially to be someplace warm in the middle of our below-freezing Ontario temperatures, but I admit I was nervous about the sleeping arrangements.
It’s tough sleeping in a strange bed, but this trip was my best for sleeping well and waking up ready for a full day. Most nights I slept right through, only waking up very briefly once or twice, and I was really comfortable.
I would break down my hotel sleep success to 3 factors:
1. Duplicating my home sleeping environment as much as possible.
2. Being prepared for strange and unexpected noises.
3. Being flexible with my bedtime so, even though it was later than usual, I was going to bed tired and still getting a healthy amount of sleep.
1. DUPLICATING MY HOME SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
I brought my favorite nightgown with me. It’s a simple cotton floor-length dress-like thing, and it’s light and comfortable. I also look cute in it, which matters, right?
We duplicated our home temperature. We had a thermostat in our room, so we set it to 69 at night, and on nights when it was cooler, we would sleep with the window open instead.
At home, Jake and I sleep in separate rooms, because we’re both light sleepers, and we would rather sleep well separately and get along famously during the day. Our room had two beds, and I admit, I was relieved. We are living proof that it IS possible to sleep in separate beds and have a great relationship, in case you were wondering.
I brought my favorite argan lavender oil. The smell reminded me of home, and helped me relax instantly.
2. BEING PREPARED FOR STRANGE & UNEXPECTED NOISES
I was prepared for outside noises by bringing earplugs and downloading a white noise app on my phone before we left.
I like the android app, Relaxio. I didn’t end up using the app while I was away, because the earplugs did the job for me, but being prepared is important.
I love the orange foam earplugs that look like little traffic cones. They stay in my ears, and they amplify the sound of my breath a little, so I become my own white noise machine. Most mornings, Jake would wake up complaining of a noisy neighbour upstairs or a squawking bird outside our window, but I didn’t hear any of it.
BEING FLEXIBLE WITH MY BEDTIME
At home, during the week, I try to be in bed by 10 o’clock. That didn’t happen on vacation. At ten o’clock, we were still playing with our friends at the pool, or finishing drinks at a pub in Disney Springs, or riding the bus back to our room from one of the parks. I was mindful of not staying up too late, but I also wanted to enjoy myself.
I should also mention that the friends we traveled with both came down with colds while we were there. When I catch a cold it can be traced back to not getting enough sleep for several nights in a row, so I made sure I was having fun without being sleep-deprived. I was in bed by or before midnight, and after a full day of walking, riding rides, and being in the Florida sun, I was collapsing into bed exhausted.
WHAT WORKS FOR OTHERS
While I was in Florida, I posted on my @sleepcoachbeth Instagram account about sleeping away from home. I asked for your secrets to sleeping well in a strange bed, and here are a few of the comments I received:
Sandy said: I bring an essential oil pillow spray or lavender oil and put it on my pillow. I do the same thing at home so I think the familiar smell helps in addition to the lavender being relaxing.
Tina said: I bring my own pillow, a sleep mask, essential oils and use my ambient noise sleep app to drown out potential strange sounds. I also keep the sleep hygiene as close to the home routine as possible, even if it’s a shorter version of it.
Another commenter said they bring their own pillow.
I have a funny story about that… I was staying in a hotel room with my Mom many years ago. My mom sleeps on a very flat pillow at home, and as you probably know by now, most hotel pillows are huge! She was so uncomfortable that first night, and woke up with a lot of neck pain and a headache. The next night, she took the pillowcase off the pillow, cut a hole along the seam, and removed ¾ of the stuffing. She then put the pillowcase back on, and had a much better sleep for the rest of our stay.
I don’t think any hotel would recommend opening up the pillows and removing the stuffing, but it sure worked well for her! If you brought a sewing kit with you, you could sew that sucker back up before you left and no one would even know.
This blog post is a modified version of my CALM+COZY Podcast episode of the same name, published February 20th, 2018. You can listen to my Insomnia Podcast HERE, or look for it on your favourite podcast app!