Help me rest easy while on vacation
February 6, 2017 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I just spent the night at a hotel and did not sleep a wink! I am flying to California for a week-long vacation in two weeks. What can I do now to prepare, that will help me rest well?

I'm typically a "bad house guest" because my own home is delightfully tuned to satisfy my every need, and when things are out of place, it's very hard for me to relax and enjoy myself.

Please give me suggestions for how I can replicate any of the following elements on my trip:
  1. Almost pitch black room, but not completely
  2. Large pillow that is a combination of memory foam on the bottom, synthetic down on the top - making a soft cool rest but lots of support for side sleeping (way too big to take on the trip)
  3. Humidifier that puts out about a gallon of water in a night
  4. Large box fan that I run all night long
I'd like to start making the changes now, so that when the trip comes, I'm already used to such-and-such changes. Any other suggestions for "How to sleep in strange beds" or "What to do if you just can't get comfortable" would be super appreciated! Thanks!
posted by rebent to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. Sleep mask.
2. Bring your own pillow -- I know you say it's too big, but this is the thing that's going to be impossible to replicate at a hotel. Search around and see if the manufacturer who makes your favorite pillow has smaller versions available. Or just decide that you're going to be pay the baggage fee to check another bag...for your pillow. Or, purchase a new one, then take it to a tailor and ask them to cut it in half and resew it, so now it's small enough for travel?
3. Travel humidifier. Most seem to be smaller, but you may be able to purchase a stick style, and then use the hotel's ice bucket to get a gallon's worth per night.
4. White noise app on your phone.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Call the hotel and ask what they can do. Lots of hotels have extra things like fans and noise machines and snowflake pillows available upon request.
posted by phunniemee at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2017

#4 can be replicated by a glorious, glorious Dohm.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

What kind of hotel are you staying in? Fancy hotels often have a selection of odd pillows that aren't the default ones in the room. They may have a memory foam pillow available, and you slap a light hotel pillow on top of it, you might be able to replicate the experience you're looking for.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

You and I have almost the same sleep criteria!

What helps for me, is to acknowledge that the first night will not be good sleep. Something about our lizard brains not getting deep sleep on the first night in a new place as a self-preservation method while we make sure there are no monsters nearby.

Agree that asking for a fan ahead of time is good. I have a compact travel fan (that isn't all that loud or powerful) but really does make a difference for me.

I'd also ask for a room away from the elevator/stairs and as high of a floor as you can. Tends to be quieter (if you're like me, you need predictable noise not just any noise).

If you're not opposed to sleeping pills, I take them on occasion when I travel.

While it might be wasteful, Costco sells memory foam pillows at 2 for $10 which might work in a pinch and could be left behind at the hotel.
posted by Twicketface at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2017

If you have a tablet or laptop, it puts out much better more dimensional sound than a phone. I use my tablet, and fan sound, and I point the speakers into a corner away from me so the sound bounces into the corner and around the room.

Do call the desk about the humidifier. If you need to buy one, see if there's a shelter or other org that will take it when you're done.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2017

Benadryl! Seriously. Check with your doctor if you have any major health issues or take other meds, but it is the perfect sleeping pill if you just need to knock yourself out for a night or two.
posted by whitewall at 2:25 PM on February 6, 2017

This is me! I travel for work a lot. My house is perfect. This is what I do which is a combination of tweakish things I can bring with me, and compromises.

1. I sleep in a hat that I pull down over my eyes, easier than an eye mask.
2. learn to sleep with different pillows and/or purchase one that is close to what you like on your trip and figure you are paying $$ for good sleep
3. there are travel humidifiers, they are not great. Keeping room temperatures lower will help with this. Depending where you are some places may have available humidifiers and/or you can buy one for longer trips and/or run a hot shower before bed
4. Apps (I use this one) or a small travel noise machine. I travel with one sometimes. You can also get Audacity on your laptop and have it generate white/pink/brown noise and just run it all night on a loop. Pretty simple. So worth it!

But other than that it's all about figuring out why you're not sleeping. For me it's anxiety so I am even more mindful of the anxiety triggers when I travel. So I do MORE exercise than usual, really watch the caffeine, take a hot shower before bed and allow myself to basically "sit with" discomfort but not get rattled about it. Because for me part of it is WORRYING about not sleeping, not the lack of sleep itself. I have literally been going at this issue like it is my job for years now; it all mostly works for me.

And when none of that works, there are pills. I have an ambien prescription in case nothing works. And it's nice because 1. it's fast-acting 2. it's low cost (with insurance) 3. I don't wake up groggy 4. I have NO desire to use it when I get home, it's not a "fun" drug.

Other pill options include benadryl (just makes you muzzy headed, not good for long term use but totally AOK for short term) or some sort of anti-anxiety thing (I take a subclinical dose of lorazepam sometimes and it works for me). If you are anxious, you are almost guaranteed to be afraid to take anti-anxiety meds. I suggest you talk to your doc and see if this works for you, but be open to the possibility. Good luck and happy travels.
posted by jessamyn at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

To answer questions about location - I will be three nights with one relative, two nights at a motel, and two nights with another relative. Amenities uncertain, and I don't want them to think I'm more picky than they already do!
posted by rebent at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2017

In that case, a sleeping mask or hat to get pure blackness (but start sleeping with the eyemask now to get used to it); and then white noise app on your phone with headphones of your choice will get you part of the way there. (I use a sleeping mask, a hat, and over the ear headphones to cocoon myself from the outside world.) You might want to run a night or two without the humidifier as well to get used to slightly drier air.

You could also bring a pillowcase, and a sweater or other multi purpose pillow object to put under a hotel/motel pillow to firm it up. (this is my trick for side sleeping; sweatshirt in a pillowcase)
posted by larthegreat at 2:46 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I used to travel a lot for work, and my sleep criteria were pretty close to yours. I had a few white noise clips on my phone that I would just loop; most hotels will also have aux in cables so you can run your phone to the night stand speaker - not amazing sound quality, but good enough.

I also spent a lot longer on my wind-down time before bed. Long hot shower, lots of time allocated for reading in bed before I fell asleep. And I'd also try and adjust my schedule to allow for later mornings if I could, since once I fell asleep I could usually stay asleep.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2017

I don't want them to think I'm more picky than they already do!

One of the things that helped for me was being "out" about my sleep problems (AskMe question here). So I'd make it clear that I didn't expect people to go out of their way for me, but to also let people help if they want to help. So I ask for extra blankets, opt for the darker guestroom if there is a choice, mention if the temperature is wildly out of sync with what I am used to, that sort of thing. Some of this depends on the ask/guess culture thing, and some depends if you are a guest or sort of crashing with someone, but make sure you are not keeping your sleep issues as a secret shame because it might be that people would be stoked to help you if it was as simple as putting the humidifier in your room.
posted by jessamyn at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

pillows squish down to practically nothing... especially if you use a space-bag. Pack your pillow, definitely!
posted by Caravantea at 3:24 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get lots of exercise and fresh air to increase your tiredness.

Wear earplugs.

Pop a Benadryl- it's very drowsymaking but not addictive. They knock me out for about 6 hours. Drink lots of water because they will dry out your nose & throat a little.
posted by spraypaint at 3:37 PM on February 6, 2017

yeah just bring your own pillow and if it makes people think that you're "fussy" just because you'd prefer to sleep instead of lying awake grumpily then, well. fuck them.

for the box fan sound, in hotels, i just run the bathroom extractor fan all night.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:42 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am not great at falling asleep and fret endlessly about it, especially when traveling.

Regarding light, strips of brighter light are a bigger problem for me than a consistently higher level of light. (Think of the difference between taking an afternoon nap with curtains drawn, vs trying to sleep at night with hallway lights blazing below the bedroom door.) When traveling, I cover small bright lights with folded washcloths, towels, or spare clothing (digital alarm clocks, LEDs on other electronics, towel rolled and placed across the bottom of the bathroom door). I also close the blackout blinds and clip them together with binder clips or pants hangers from the hotel closet, and arrange my bedding so I can either stick my head in a dark corner or behind a wall of pillows.

White noise bugs me and I use earplugs when staying in hotels or an otherwise unfamiliar/creaky/noisy building.

If there's a time difference of 3+ hours, I bring Zzzquil for at least the first few nights. I went to Europe for vacation last summer and used it for much of a two week trip, and it didn't really work by the end.

Establishing a schedule and wearing myself out help a lot--not hard to do if your vacation involves lots of walking.
posted by esoterrica at 3:43 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

While it might be wasteful, Costco sells memory foam pillows at 2 for $10 which might work in a pinch and could be left behind at the hotel.

The problem with that is you have to find a Costco before you go to sleep. But if you can't take your pillow on the plane, maybe get a second pillow just for travel, and ship it ahead of time.
posted by aubilenon at 4:24 PM on February 6, 2017

I have a hard time keeping a sleep mask on all night, but also love a dark room, so I agree with using rolled towels to block hallway light and taking binder clips to tightly close the blackout curtains. I also like to take a little bit of electrical tape to cover the super bright red tv power light, or just unplug the tv if its easy enough to get to the powerpoint.

For the nights you will be at the hotel... I always find myself getting really dozy after sitting in a tub tub for very long. I try to use the hotel hot tub or run myself an extra hot bath before bed and I'm usually ready to knock right out.
posted by cristalina at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2017

I have this travel humidifer, it's not bad. Its not going to work as well as a full humidifier, but if you put it on the table next to the bed it definitely seems to help.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:52 PM on February 6, 2017

Electrical tape to cover up rogue lights! But also a nightlight for the bathroom so I don't have to blind myself for a midnight pee.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:00 PM on February 6, 2017

I sleep with a tshirt laid over my eyes. sleep masks aren't comfortable for me. I put an extra one on the night stand for when I wake up in the middle of the night and I can't find it.
posted by katieanne at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2017

I don't do well with sleep masks. For light levels, I find that most hotel room light problems come from two sources: Leakage under the entrance door, and leakage through the vertical gap between the blackout curtains.

The door is easy: Roll up a towel and shove it down by the base of the door like a draft excluder.

For the curtains, I carry four binder clips which I use to hold the curtains together with no gap. They're cheap enough that when I inevitably forget them, it doesn't make me too sad.
posted by sourcequench at 6:13 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Same issues I have with sleeping on a red-eye flight. I commuted on Sunday nights from San Francisco to NY for 8 weeks (back on Thursday afternoons). I had a sleep mask and headphones with music or white noise, but the bottom line was a Tylenol PM chased by a beer (or two). Slept well everytime I used that protocol. My point is that it will be hard to recreate an environment. The easiest least intrusive solution is to find a way to knock yourself out either through excessive exercise or medication.
posted by AugustWest at 7:00 PM on February 6, 2017

For the box fan noise (if it's for noise and not breeze), you can also just record the actual box fan on your phone and then play that on a loop. It won't be perfect but might be soothingly familiar.
posted by yarrow at 9:00 PM on February 6, 2017

I have had the same sleep issues while traveling. The way I resolved this is that I take a sleeping pill while traveling (half a pill actually.) Every night. The grogginess upon waking up is MORE than made up for by the all-day alertness that I get from having slept at night.
posted by eleslie at 6:28 AM on February 7, 2017

Do you sleep with the fan on mostly to drown out noise, or because you like the white noise itself?

I ask because I'm quite sensitive to noise and light, so I just keep silicone earplugs and a sleep mask in my travel-toiletry case. I've tried those white noise apps; I don't like any of them, but I'm more concerned about random noises than having the white noise itself, so earplugs work fine.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:34 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I ordered a travel pillow, ear plugs, and am planning to pull a t-shirt over my head. I'll try that out for a few days to see how it works.
posted by rebent at 9:45 AM on February 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here's what I did:

1 - travel pillow with my usual pillow case. Worked really well. I used the Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow.
2 - ear plugs - not as useful as I suspected, but I used them maybe a quarter of the nights.
3 - Sleep with me podcast - really great when used with earbuds, but I wish I brought the headphones I am used to from home.
4 - light / moisture - didn't really bother me like I expected, so I didn't end up doing anything.
5 - white noise generator - also didn't really help. the cell phone speaker was too small to drown out the larger noises.
6 - drugs - I took a benedril before bed every night, but I do that anyway. I had way too much coffee most the trip, too.
posted by rebent at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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