Living the digital nomad life can be challenging from a health perspective. From hunching over a laptop and eating out too much to jet lag and Montezuma’s revenge, travel can pose a number of potential perils. However, the biggest and most consistent challenge by far is sleeping well.
Of course, that’s true for any traveler. A new mattress, a lumpy pillow, a room that’s too hot or too cold, strange noises, general anxiety — all of these things are common when you travel, and any one of them can sabotage your sleep.
Not to mention, the farther north you live, the more daylight issues can affect your sleeping patterns with sunlight most of the time during the summer and nearly perpetual darkness in wintertime. Too much or not enough daylight can throw off your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) and cause havoc with your sleep cycle.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you sleep well anywhere:
Help your body prepare to sleep
What you do when you’re awake can affect how well you sleep, so be sure to time your daytime activities to maximize your body’s ability to sleep when you’re ready.
A lot of this involves what you eat before you close your eyes. It’s a good idea not to go to bed hungry, but try to eat foods that will help you sleep, such as kiwis, cherries, bananas, nuts, and spinach. And, as you might suspect, it’s a good idea to cut back on caffeine, especially in the hours before you’re ready to hit the hay.
What you might not realize is that the same goes for alcohol: While it can make you feel relaxed and help you fall asleep, it can keep you from staying asleep and keep you from getting good-quality sleep. It can produce a brain wave pattern that’s more like a relaxed waking state than any of the five sleep stages. So it’s more like meditating than actually sleeping.
Don’t drink too much of any kind of liquid before going to sleep. Waking up to go to the bathroom can make it difficult to go back to sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly climate
Control the temperature of your environment. Being too hot can cause you to perspire and toss and turn, disrupting sleep, while being too cold can wake you up, shivering, to search for an extra blanket or turn up the heater.
Keep the temperature as consistent and comfortable as possible, whether you’re in a tent (a mummy bag is great to keep you warm in cold climates), a motel room, or an RV.
A backup generator is a must for RVers for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is powering your fans and keeping the air moving in the event of a power disruption or when you’re camping off-grid. If you don’t have one, it can get too hot to sleep pretty quickly!
Minimize sensory distractions
It’s probably a good idea to stop driving at least a couple of hours before you plan to fall asleep. Staying mentally alert and engaged is a must when you’re driving, but you’ll want some time to relax and wind down before you fall asleep.
Also, trying to fight off sleep while you’re driving is dangerous. Falling asleep at the wheel can be deadly, and trying to force yourself to stay awake by downing caffeine pills or energy drinks while driving doesn’t bode well for a good night’s sleep ahead.
Once you’ve reached your destination, block out any light that might be coming in, and turn off your electronic devices. You can use the overnight hours to charge your smartphone or laptop, if need be.
And you can watch TV at home. There are things you might never get another chance to see when you’re on the road, so you’ll want to maximize the time you spend checking them out… when you’re fully awake and alert.
Reduce or eliminate stress where possible
Make sure you’ve got everything you need for a successful trip, so you’re not on edge wondering if you’ve forgotten something. (Going over a checklist before you leave can help.)
Give yourself peace of mind by minimizing your risk of having a traffic accident. Be sure your vehicle maintenance is up to date. Start with your tires, since tire blowouts cause 11,000 accidents and result in 200 deaths per year. Check for factors that can create problems, including underinflation, worn tread, and previous tire damage.
If you’re planning an extended trip, go in for an oil change before you leave, so you don’t have to interrupt your trip and have it done by a service technician you don’t know.
Deal with the stress you do feel by getting out of the car periodically and taking a walk or hike. Exercise is great during the day — just not right before bed. That’s the time for a light stretch and some meditation to set the stage for sleep.
If you take care of your body, reduce stress and distractions, and create a sleep-friendly environment, you’ll be laying the foundation for a relaxing trip that can be adventurous and exhilarating at the same time.
You shouldn't let travel get in the way of your therapy. Today it is just as easy to travel with a CPAP machine as it is to travel without it. Don't leave your machine at home and allow yourself to suffer at night. Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, you want to be at your best, and you're not going to get there if you're losing sleep. If you're needing any additional information on traveling with a CPAP machine, or would like to purchase a travel-specific CPAP machine, feel free to contact the Alaska Sleep Clinic.