Sleep Disorders: Sleep and Travel

Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

Jetlag can occur when people travel quickly across several time zones, causing their internal biological rhythm to be out of synch with the new destination time. Sleep problems tend to be more common when people travel from west to east as it is more difficult to advance than to delay sleep time.

Coping With Jetlag

It is important to adapt yourself to the routine of your destination time zone as soon as possible. The following suggestions might help you avoid sleep problems when traveling:

  • Several days before traveling, try to gradually adjust your sleeping habits to the destination time zone.
  • As soon as you board the flight, reset your watch for the new time zone.
  • While on board, control sleeping including naps.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to the new rhythm.
  • Limit your sleep to no more than two hours immediately after arrival. Remember that daylight can help reset your internal "clock."
  • Take a one-hour walk as soon as you get up in the morning.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
  • Avoid social isolation.
  • Practice good sleep habits while away.

Adjusting to New Surroundings

Many people have trouble sleeping in a hotel room or in a different environment than they are used to. These tips may help you sleep better when you are away from home:

  • Bring along a pillow and/or blanket that you're used to. These may help you sleep more comfortably.
  • Pack a few personal objects from home (for example, photographs or a coffee mug) to ease the feeling of being in a new environment.
  • Check your room for potential sleep disturbances including light shining through the drapes. Bring along a sleep mask to block out any light.
  • Request a room in the quietest section of the property and make sure that the room is away from any entrance areas or elevators.
  • Use a fan or other "white noise" to cut down sounds of hotel neighbors or street traffic.
  • Check your room's thermostat. Your sleep can be disrupted if the room is warmer than 75° F or colder than 54° F.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.

Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005

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