May 9, 2018
You park the rental car, go to the check-in counter. You talk to the concierge as she gives you the key to the room. You are in room 403. The elevator is down the hall and to the right. You iron the key, open the door to your room. No surprises here: a bed, a desk, a toilet, a mini fridge with mini drinks. You throw your luggage on the floor and sit on the edge of the bed.
Tomorrow is a big day and you need your energy for it. Coffee alone does not do the trick. No, you need sleep and lots of it.
But it’s hard to sleep in a hotel room. The bed does not feel right, someone always slams the door, the curtains do not block the street lights, the pillows are too hard. Some nights the morning may not come fast enough. We’ve all been there.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep in these alien environments. So let’s get to them, yes?
1) Keep it dark
Our circadian rhythm – the 24-hour cycle that controls sleep and wakefulness – is primarily regulated by light. Bright light in the morning wakes us up, and the absence of light in the evening signals the release of our sleep hormone, melatonin. With melatonin there to help us, we can get restful sleep.
But when our sleeping environment is not dark, our body thinks it is daytime and melatonin is not released. And dark means dark. Our eyes, even our skin cells, contain photoreceptors who are sensitive to even a little bit of light. To get optimal sleep, the room must be black.
With this in mind, the first thing to do in a hotel is to unplug something that emits light. All the flashing LEDs on the TV, alarm clock, etc. – close them. If you feel extra motivated, place a towel along the doorway to prevent outside light from seeping in. Finally, be sure to put on a sleeping mask before hitting the hay. The eyes are the most light sensitive a part of the body.
2) Keep it cold
After light, room temperature is probably the most important factor for high quality sleep. Everyone knows how good it feels to pile under the cover on a chilly evening.
But it’s not just a good feeling. If the room is not cool enough, REM and deep sleep are reduced. And when you do not get enough REM and deep sleep, your brain function suffers the next day.
Fortunately, most hotels have air conditioning. Set it to a comfortable cool temperature – 62 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit or thereabouts – and your brain will thank you the next day.
3) Pack magnesium
Magnesium supports many functions in the human body and sleep is no exception. For example, magnesium supports two hormones – melatonin and adiponectin – that helps you procrastinate. Low levels of adiponectin can actually to lead to sleep apnea, so it is good to maintain healthy levels of that hormone. Magnesium also increases the levels of a circulating protein called renin linked to sound asleep.
What about clinical evidence? In a examination, with 500 mg pr. day with magnesium improved the sleep quality of a group of elderly people. According to another comprehensive review, Magnesium supplements are a proven way to reduce anxiety. It is a good advantage if you are settled after a long day of travel.
The bottom line – magnesium is a safe and inexpensive supplement to support sleep and relaxation along the way. Plus it takes up less space than your toothpaste.
Let’s go through these sleep strategies one more time. When you enter your room, turn off the light, take out the flashing things and get your sleep mask ready. This will create enough darkness to facilitate the release of melatonin. Then turn the air conditioner up until the temperature is cool enough to promote healthy sleep cycles. Finally, push some magnesium to support sleep hormones, increase renin levels and lower stress.
Do this, and when the morning comes, your brain will be fresh, your body will rest, and your energy will be primed. In other words, you are ready for action.