Traveling with insomnia: survival guide

If you struggle with insomnia, going on a trip can make it worse. Sleeping in hotel rooms, spending long hours at airports or in transport, and changes in routine can interfere with slumber that's already hard to get. But don't let the worry of traveling with insomnia keep you from taking that trip you need and deserve. You can put your sleep concerns to bed with these 10 tips--and help make your trip restful and enjoyable.

Follow a Sleep Schedule

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Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps insomnia sufferers manage their nightly sleep. If you haven't already, get on a regular sleep schedule and stick to it when you travel. Make an effort to book departure and arrival times that don't disrupt your sleep routine. If your travel plans involve switching time zones, consider adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before you leave town to help shift your body clock to the new time zone.

Rest During Downtime

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Sleep specialists recommend that insomnia sufferers avoid napping during the day. Short naps of 20 to 30 minutes, however, can be beneficial--and a good use of downtime. You might, for example, nap while en route to your destination. If you can't sleep on planes or in cars, close your eyes and practice deep breathing or meditate. The time goes by faster that way, plus you'll relax your mind and body, which helps improve sleep when bedtime arrives.

Consider a Tour

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Planning your own travel adventure is an exhilarating experience, but doing it alone can also be hectic, laborious, and tiring. Why not sign up for a tour instead? Tours are organized by a travel group, which arranges the daily itineraries and handles all transportation. Not only do tours put you on a schedule that will help you stay on track with your sleep routine, you'll avoid the stress of travel uncertainties by assigning details to someone else.

Compensate for Sleeplessness

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Getting adequate sleep is important for health and well-being, but so are the rest of your basic needs. If you can't control how well you sleep on the road, you can compensate by taking charge of other important health habits, like eating nutritious meals, getting plenty of exercises, drinking lots of water, and finding time to relax.  Keep your body and mind as healthy as you can while traveling to make up for any restless nights you experience.

Seek Professional Help Beforehand

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It's not a bad idea to talk to a sleep specialist before you travel if insomnia is a chronic problem. Sleep professionals can help you work through some of your anxiety about traveling with insomnia. They may recommend cognitive behavior therapy, melatonin, or other treatments to help you manage and cope while you're away. Be sure to give yourself enough time before your trip to work on sleep strategies to use on the road.

Don't Pack the Itinerary with too much Activity

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Staying active during the day while traveling can help you nod off at night, but too much activity packed into the schedule can be taxing and counterproductive to sleep. Make sure you allow time during travel for restful activities--reading, a leisurely walk on the beach, lounging poolside, or doing whatever brings you peace and calm. You'll not only make your trip more fun, you'll help prepare yourself for a better night's sleep.  

Don't Let Sleep Worries Be Your Focus

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Sleep troubles can suck the joy and excitement out of travel if you let it. Instead of being irritated about not sleeping on your trip, focus on the positive aspects of your getaway. Travel is filled with new adventures and activities. Let your mind shift to the reason you're on the trip in the first place and put thinking about sleep on the back burner. Chances are, the less you think about sleep, the more relaxed, happy, and rested you'll be.

Don't Plan a Big Event Before Your Big Trip

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Does your pre-travel schedule include a big event you're planning and preparing for? If so, consider putting off your trip for a later date. Too much running around before you go on a trip can adversely affect sleep and send you away with extreme exhaustion--which will make you too tired to enjoy your trip or put you at risk for getting sick. It's better to take the days and weeks before travel to rest up and prepare mentally for your trip.

Don't Forget Sleep Aids

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Whether you use earplugs, a lavender spritzer, or a white noise app to help you sleep at home, sleep aids can be a godsend for travel too. Remember to pack whatever helps induce shuteye. If you prefer to travel with your own pillow, find a way to bring it along, especially if it will make a difference in how you sleep. Be sure to check with a doctor before taking sleeping pills when you travel, as they may cause grogginess or other unwanted side effects.

Don't Feel Alone

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Keep in mind that many people--one in three, according to the National Sleep Foundation-- experience some form of insomnia. Even those who don't suffer insomnia at home can sleep poorly when traveling. Knowing that you're not the only traveler with insomnia should help comfort you and ease your sleep worries. Poor sleep is a common problem that won't, as many have proven, put a significant damper on your trip.

Bottom line? Don't let traveling with insomnia get in the way of your fun and adventure. Do follow the above tips for managing sleeplessness on the road so you can embrace and enjoy your trip.