AFTER A LONG DAY, you arrive at the hotel…
The holiday of a lifetime will begin in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
You get into the bed, and it doesn’t disappoint. The mattress is comfortable, the sheets are pristine, the duvet is snug, and the pillows are firm.
There is just one problem…
Sleeping in a new environment is probably one of the most significant things that affect people while traveling or after moving into a new house. Scientists refer to this as the First Night Effect. It has been proven that sleeping in a different bed, in a new environment is harder on your sleep.
People who are used to sleeping in new places might not have many problems with the First Night Effect as the brains get used to the variation.
Research has revealed that your brain operates on a different level of alertness when you fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment. When you stay the night in a new place, your brain spends the first night in a surveillance mode.
Studies have indicated that on the first night, the left side of the brain shows reduced sleep depth. Also, the brain shows an increased response to unusual sounds and other deviant external stimuli. The First Night Effect is, therefore, a manifestation of one hemisphere of your brain. It is being more vigilant and acting as a night watch to monitor unfamiliar surroundings during sleep.
Researchers theorize that this phenomenon is your body’s basic survival mechanism put in place to keep you vigilant in the presence of perceived potential predators and other threats.
Did you know: Sleeping with only half of the brain has been observed in seals, rats, dolphins, whales, ducks, and some other birds.
With his new information, then, you need to prepare to deal with the First Night Effect. A few tactics will make the difference between having the time of your life and having the worst day ever of your vacation or business trip.
The key to beating the unfamiliarity anxiety is to make your sleeping room feel like home as much as you can. Therefore, packing becomes an essential step in ensuring that you get adequate sleep in a new environment.
Bring your own bed sheets. If you have space, bring your own bed sheets. They could help you sleep better since you are already used to their feel and scent. The bed sheets are also helpful for you if you have skin sensitivities and you are worried about the detergents and bleach that is used to clean hotel linens.
Bring your own pillowcase. If you cannot bring a whole set of sheets, at least bring your own pillowcase. Its familiar smell and worn in feeling will help you to sleep better.
Other home comforts that you can bring with you include a snack that you love, a book you are currently reading, a picture of your family, and even a pet where it is permitted.
If you keep in mind that the reason you are having trouble sleeping is your brains hypervigilance to unfamiliar sensations, there are a few things you can do to calm down your brain.
Carry a sleep mask. A good sleep mask that will rest firmly on your face and block out the light will help you sleep. The simple nylon sleep masks are easy to pack and are padded enough to block out light. They can also cool your face when you put them on.
Pack your plugs: Get high-quality foam earplugs that will block about 60 decibels or above. Even though they can be a tad uncomfortable, feeling little bits of foam in your ears is far less annoying than being kept up all night by noise.
Alternatively, consider installing a white noise app to block noise out. The white noise app plays noise along with other natural sounds and reduces your brains sensitivity to the noises in your surroundings.
Staying away from home does not mean you should completely neglect your usual sleep ritual. Following your regular pre-sleep routine will not only allow you to sleep better in unfamiliar surroundings, but it has the added advantage of ensuring that your sleep is not compromised when you return home. Some of the things you can do before bed to help you sleep better include:
The point is to stick to your routine and ritual wherever you are, and you will fall asleep easier even if you are across the globe from your bed.
Experts indicate that 65% degrees is the best temperature for good sleep at night. You can adjust the thermostat to your liking or open a window (just a crack) since opening the window all the way might bring in cold or allow noise to waft in.
The first night is typically the hardest to sleep, and it might be despite all your efforts. As such, give yourself as much time as possible to sleep, especially if you have an important meeting the following day. This will help you to have plenty of time to relax, acclimatize and drift off.
Recognize that you are in a new environment and it will take extra effort to fall asleep. Try not to worry too much about getting sleep because worrying itself will awaken the brain. Since your brain is already hyper-vigilant, worrying will magnify the loss of sleep.
If you still cannot sleep, remind yourself that it is only for one night. It's ok to promise yourself an additional cup of coffee in the morning. After all, even if you are staying over another night, your body and brain will already have adapted to the new environment by then. And you will be back to sleeping soundly in no time.
You can also use these general techniques to help you fall asleep faster.