How I learned to sleep well while traveling

Travel can be fun, of course, but also exhausting. That’s why I’ve made mastering my sleep routines while on the road a priority in the past few years.

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I travel a lot for our Bossed Up Bootcamp weekends, for public speaking, and of course, the Bossed Up Book Tour, which I’m currently in the midst of. Travel can be fun, of course, but also exhausting. That’s why I’ve made mastering my sleep routines while on the road a priority in the past few years.


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Without solid sleep, I could not get up on keynote stages and deliver my best. As Amy Poehler said, “Sleep helps you win at life.” I couldn’t agree more, but that doesn’t mean getting sleep is easy. I’ve always been more of a night owl than a morning bird, and hotel life gets old real quick.

Making things feel homey and sticking to a bedtime routine – both at home and while on the road – has helped a ton. Here are the best practices that work for me:

1. I get strategic about screen time

When you’re all alone in bed in a hotel, it feels like there’s nothing else to do but be on your devices. Honestly! So when I hear wellness gurus say to get off your devices an hour before bedtime, I think to myself, “And do what?!”

I’m not lugging a paper book with me everywhere I go, because, frankly, it takes up too much precious space and I travel light! But while I always read before bed at home, I’ve found that I can still use my devices strategically to shut down my brain and get sleepy when I’m on the road.

First, I pop on my blue light blocking glasses (which I was recently gifted by our podcast sponsor, Warby Parker.) This keeps my brain from being hit with the stimulating glow that emanates from my phone and keeps me up.

Second, I might call someone I love. I’m a big Facetime fan, and lately I’ve been chatting a lot with my sister, Isabel, who’s studying abroad in Australia, or I’ll call Brad the Boo or my mom to say hi, so long as it’s not too late. Even though I’m still on my device, looking a loved one in the eye feels completely different than getting lost in a never-ending Instagram scroll.

Finally, I might pop on a podcast and use the “sleep timer” feature in the Apple podcast app to set it to turn itself off if I fall asleep while listening. It’s kind of old-school cool in that I’m just laying there listening to the radio, FDR fireside chat-style. It’s nice because it provides a form of entertainment without having my eyes glued to a screen. My favorite podcasts for this purpose are The Daily by the New York TimesThis American Life, and Invisibilia.

2. I diffuse essential oils on the go

I’ve written before about how I’ve long been an essential oil skeptic (in part because I’m not a fan of the MLM companies that shill them), but in reading The Nature Fix, and learning more about nature’s healing powers, I’ve been convinced by the data supporting the use of cypress oil and calming lavender oil blends at night in particular.

I already wrote about the at-home diffuser I recently purchased, which I use in conjunction with my humidifier in oh-so-dry Denver, to ensure we don’t wake up parched throats anymore (which was a real thing when we first moved to the Mile High City!). Hotel rooms while traveling are comparably drying, but there’s no way I can bring a humidifier with me on the go, unfortunately. That said, I recently picked up this adorable little travel diffuser, which works nicely with my lavender blend essential oil, which I always keep in my toiletries bag, and plugs right in via USB.

Setting the little diffuser on my bedside table in my hotel room is part of my calming routine when I’m on the road, which provides a little bit of structure and indicates to my brain that it’s time to wind down.

3. I slip on comfy pajamas

I used to think that sleeping in a t-shirt and undies was just fine on the go (and truthfully, it is!). But as part of my sleep-away bachelorette party last year, I gifted all my girlfriends and myself a pair of super-soft, stretchy, cotton blend pajamas from Target, that I still adore to this day.

The shorts and button-up pairing are light and compact, so they work well for travel, but they feel downright decedent when I put them on. I love these so much that I got my mom a pair of the long pants version for Christmas last year, too.

Changing into a nice pair of PJs before I do my evening skincare regimen and brush my teeth is all part of the tactile experience that helps me wind down and get in the mood for sleep.

What works best for you?

Have you focused on improving your sleep habits at home or on the go? What bedtime routine works best for you? I’d love to hear in the comments section below or online at @emiliearies and @bosseduporg on Instagram or Twitter.

This article first appeared on BossedUp


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