Falling asleep in hotels – why it’s hard and how to fix it.

Sometimes I imagine being able to run away to my local hotel and getting a good night’s sleep. Plus room service. Plus the mini-bar. Plus a buffet breakfast. I’m always left disappointed though when I toss and turn and struggle to fall asleep. I’m tired, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years if not decades (#blessedmum).

Why aren’t I falling into a deep, dreamless sleep?

It turns out that difficulty sleeping in hotels is totally normal and due to our animal instincts. If you really want get specific about who or what to blame, point the finger squarely at the left side of your brain.

Monz Musings: I just like to sleep OKAY! Article continues after this video.

In his book The Doctorthe brilliant and ever so knowledgeable Dr Karl Kruszelnicki says First-Night Effect is due to the left side of our brains saying partially awake in order to stay aware of any potential danger due to our new surroundings. He says it’s so well-known among the medical community that data collected on the first night of sleep studies is usually disregarded.

It could also be related to the brain function that allows us to sleep while the garbage truck bangs down the road but wakes for a baby crying. “This pathway might be related to parents being able to sleep through a thunderstorm, but snapping awake as soon as their new-born baby makes the slightest noise,” he told The Mirror.

Advertisement Dr Karl says there's an important reason why you can't sleep that first night in a hotel. Image: The Doctor, Booktopia

While it's good news for those wanting to survive the night - in a perfectly safe hotel - it's bad news for those expecting a excellent night's sleep. At least it normally only lasts for one night.

Dr Karl says there's lots you can do to avoid First-Night Effect:

  • Bring your favourite pillow with you;
  • Avoid the mini-bar.

Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher, consultant and author of Sleep For Successtold Conde Nast Traveller, suggests making the hotel room feel as much like home as possible.

"I’m a huge fan of making your hotel room feel as much like home as possible. I pack a picture of my family in my wallet, cashmere socks, and a travel pillow. My co-author and I worked with a company to design a pillow that has silver thread, and it keeps your head cool at night. Little tricks like that can help you feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment."

Not being able to sleep is THE WORST. Image: Breakfast at Tiffany's, Paramount Pictures

Robbins also says that it's okay to dip into the mini-bar but choose the milk or a light snack, never alcohol.

"I’m a big proponent of a pre-bed snack—that’s another thing we’ve worked on at the Benjamin, designing pre-bed bites that are about 200 calories each. Typically the best advice is to avoid proteins before bed, but milk is the one exception. So many of our mothers made us warm milk before bed, so that’s an example where whatever is relaxing to you is the best thing."

How do you ensure you get a good night's sleep when travelling?


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