We all love a vacation but early flights, uncomfortable seats and moving through time zones can do quite a number on our sleep routine.
A vacation is the opportunity to see new places and have amazing experiences with our family and friends; it’s something we look forward to all year long. Before, during and after travel many make the effort to achieve that perfect eight hours of sleep, but what if that requirement is a myth? Is it possible that the quality of sleep is more important than the actual time spent in bed?
What better time to consider the architecture of sleep and how to achieve the most effective sleep than when we're traveling and our routines are disrupted?
According to Hästens—a leader in luxury mattress design since 1852—good sleep is like good architecture in that it enriches and supports everyday life on multiple levels. Hästens consulted psychology professor Torbjörn Åkerstedt Ph.D.—whose main focus is sleep research—to provide 10 simple ways to optimize sleep while traveling.
Find a Dark Room
A dark room allows the minds to downshift and begin the sleep cycle properly. This also means excluding lights from electronic devices. Continuing to use mobile devices, tablets, and e-readers, keeps the mind active and decreases the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, making it harder to fall asleep.
Unbalanced body temperature that causes sweating is a culprit that causes interrupted sleep. Hästens has been making beds for queens and kings for decades. The company suggests to stay cool, avoiding latex and foam beds; Hästens mattresses are constructed with horsehair, cotton and wool, some of the best materials to induce deep sleep.
Light clothing, no blankets and a thermostat set at 66 degrees combines to create a cool, healthy sleep atmosphere. Mild cold gives your body a nighttime activity boost known as "non-shivering thermogenesis," which helps rid the body of excess blood glucose and makes more "good" brown fat by transforming stored white fat and sugars into energy to keep warm.
Get Peace and Quiet
This may seem like a no brainer, but for some travelers visiting big cities like New York, for instance, this could prove to be particularly challenging.
There are many potential sources of sleep-stealing sounds ranging from things in hotel rooms like appliances, televisions, and other people in addition to outside sounds like storms, traffic and urban city noise.
When traveling, pack earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to make sleep easier in your new environment. Ask for a quiet room away from entry ways or a corner room when you book your hotel. A travel sound machine or your smartphone can also be handy, as several phone apps also have white noise and nature sounds designed to promote sleep.
No Late-Night Caffeine
Caffeine—coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate—close to bedtime must be avoided. One study found that consuming caffeine six hours before bedtime reduced total sleep time by an hour. Caffeine is a stimulant; while it is important to note that caffeine can temporarily make us feel more alert, it also blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increases adrenaline production.
Daily activity will pay dividends on a sleep routine. Chronobiological—the study of circadian rhythm—research reveals that the body really benefits from waking up and activating itself as soon as possible. Some stretching before sightseeing to get the blood pumping or some light exercise after breakfast will help find a sleep/wake balance in no time.
After a full day of exploring, we recommend laying on a bed that gives optimum balance between proper support and comfort; a bed that lets the spine rest without undue stress. Hästens has 11 beds with a spectrum of options to help optimize the body's circadian rhythm. The company’s in-store sleep advisors will be able to see exactly which level of support is needed, while guests focus on how each bed feels.
Set a New Sleep Pattern
While adjusting to a new environment, try to develop a sleep routine to help ease the mind and soul into sleep. Begin around 30 minutes before going to bed and take some extra time going through the things normally done before bed—setting an alarm, checking tomorrow’s itinerary, showering, etc.
The goal is to slow the body down and clear the mind of the thoughts from the day, thus going to bed relaxed and calm—the very foundation of the architecture of sleep. Hästens has curated “sleep sounds” that will help you wind down, available for free on Spotify.
Because nicotine is a potent stimulant, smokers can easily develop insomnia if they smoke frequently and close to bedtime. Similar to caffeine, nicotine is both a drug and a stimulant, meaning it can substantially affect the quality of your sleep if consumed in high quantities and too close to bedtime.
According to a 2013 University of Florida study, the average person loses 1.2 minutes of sleep for every cigarette they smoke, due to nicotine’s stimulating and subsequent withdrawal effects. People who smoke within two hours of bedtime struggle to fall asleep because the nicotine disrupts their natural sleep-wake cycle and withdrawal symptoms set in before the morning alarm goes off, often leaving smokers feeling even more restless and agitated.
Beware of Night Caps
Drinking too close to bedtime is a known culprit for sleep disruption reducing the periods of REM—deep, dream state—sleep. Many people suffering from insomnia will take a drink before bedtime to help them fall asleep. After an initial stimulating effect, alcohol's sedating effects can reduce the time required to fall asleep, but alcohol's effects do not end there. Consuming alcohol within an hour of bedtime will disrupt sleep in the second half of the sleep period, causing the person to sleep fitfully, awakening from dreams and not being able to get back to sleep easily.
No More Naps
Unfortunately, as adults, napping during the day affects the body’s “circadian rhythm,” an internal 24-hour cycle that all living beings have. Sleep during the day will be subtracted from the main sleeping done at night. Try to cut out those mid-day naps and stick to a regular pattern of waking and sleeping at a specific time.
Maintaining equilibrium is crucial to achieving the best quality of sleep—avoiding excess heat and dampness keeps the body comfortable and able to complete at least four of the 90-110 minute sleep cycles needed to wake up rested, fit, and ready to face the day.
Hästens beds provide a revolutionary concept in mattress construction; natural materials like horsehair allow the bed to breathe, circulating air around the body to create ideal sleeping conditions. Horsehair has a capillary action that absorbs the moisture and keeps temperatures regulated. Using lightweight sheets and a breathable natural fiber mattress can make all the difference. It allows companies like Hastens to stay in business for over 150 years.
When you return from your travels, it's even more important to get the best sleep possible to wake up feeling energized and ready to return to your daily routine. Hästens beds combine unsurpassed craftsmanship with time-honored quality to create a luxurious sleep night after night.