I often hear people say that they love to travel but have trouble sleeping in new places.
Fatigue on your vacation can be more than just an annoyance- studies show that when we're sleep deprived, our pain tolerance goes down, our memories aren't as sharp and we're more accident prone. None of these are good outcomes when you're trying to relax on a trip.
I've always been jealous of those people that seem to be able to sleep anywhere- on planes, buses, at campsites. I've never been one of them... until now.
Get a Good Eye Mask
It may sound like overkill, but this is by far the best way to block out light in order to sleep better and longer.
It feels strange to sleep with at first, but after a week of practice, you'll be used to the feeling of a mask on your face.
Invest in Comfortable Ear Plugs
This also takes some getting used to, but learning to sleep with ear plugs will pay dividends when your hostel bunk mate stumbles home at 1 a.m. or that overnight bus in Ecuador starts playing another Adam Sandler movie dubbed in Spanish.
You won't always have access to a quiet space, so start practicing with ear plugs, and you'll be grateful you did it. I cut mine down to size (because I don't like the feeling of them sticking out of my ears) and roll them before putting them in to make sure they won't pop out during the night.
Establish a (Portable) Night-time Routine
This is a good tip for anyone having sleep problems, but the key for long-term travelers is to pick a routine that you can repeat anywhere. You might journal for a few minutes every night while listening to peaceful music on your headphones or read in bed right before sleep.
Just be sure you can repeat your routine anywhere. If you're hooked on brewing a special tea, you can run into problems when you're in the middle of Botswana at a camp site.
This is one of our favorite purchases for our round-the-world trip. It's small, light and easily packable.
We use ours when we watch movies together on one of our laptops or to listen to music at the beach, but we also hook this up to our phones to play ambient noise throughout the night in private hostel or guesthouse rooms.
This combined with ear plugs goes a long way to reduce the sounds of other guests coming and going throughout the night. It also brings me to my next tip...
Download a Fan App
We downloaded a free version that lets you set a number of hours to play and blasts the sound of a fan through our portable blue tooth speaker.
Buy a Sleep Sac and Inflatable Pillow
My sleep sac is compact and super soft, so in addition to using it for overnight travel, I also break it out in guesthouses or hostels when I feel like the sheets aren't that clean. In Africa I slipped it into my sleeping bag providing me with a nice extra layer of warmth after the sun went down.
My inflatable pillow is one of my favorite travel items. It's tiny when deflated, but I can blow it up to a nice size pillow and use it on trains, buses and planes. I've even used it in hotels and hostels when the pillow provided is small and lumpy.
Fellow backpackers, what tips and tricks do you use to get to sleep? Do you have a nightly routine that you swear by?