Business travelers are true road warriors. They navigate a never-ending obstacle course of airport security, taxis, hotel check-ins and eating on the run and still manage to put in a full day’s work. But after all the logistics, what’s the best way to relax and get a good night’s sleep?
Here are a few rules of the road business travelers can follow when it’s time to unplug.
1. Schedule for sanity
We rigorously adhere to our schedules 99 percent of the time. Yet, when it’s time to travel for business, we completely disregard our normal wake and sleep cycles in a rush to save $50 on airfare.
If your employer allows any wiggle room in your travel budget, choose a flight itinerary with reasonable departure and arrival times. Consider leaving a day early or staying a day late if it prevents a red-eye flight. Or, try to schedule your itinerary with arrivals no later than 6:00 p.m. This gives you enough time to retrieve your luggage, get to the hotel, unpack, have dinner and turn in at a (relatively) normal hour. Departures before 10:00 a.m. will only stress you out and leave you sleeping the night before with one eye on the clock.
2. Pack proactively
Add a few sleep essentials to your travel kit:
- Disposable foam earplugs
- A sleep mask
- A large binder clip
The earplugs block out most ambient noise, but still let you hear your alarm or wake-up call. They’re perfect for dampening the sound of slamming doors and noisy late night hotel guests.
The sleep mask helps tune out other distractions and of course, block light.
Why the binder clip? Because hotel curtains never seem to close completely. Binder clips are perfect for securing curtains panels together to keep the light out.
3. Choose your room
You take time to choose your hotel; it’s time to get just as picky about your room. All hotel rooms are not created equal. Experienced travelers know which real estate to avoid:
- Rooms near the elevator
- Rooms near the vending or ice machines
- Rooms close to the lobby or breakfast area
For obvious reasons, all of these locations tend to be noisier than average. Also steer clear of rooms close to delivery areas or dumpsters, or your wake-up call will sound a lot like a service truck.
Depending on how full the hotel is, most clerks will happily work with guests and oblige special room requests. Don’t hesitate to make your preferences known—it’s a quick and inexpensive way to significantly increase your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
4. Get defensive
Once you’re settled in your room, there are a few simple things that can defend your peace and quiet.
- First, make use of the Do Not Disturb sign. Housekeeping staff start their rounds early and you don’t necessarily want to be first on their list.
- Second, check that bedside alarm clock. You’d be surprised how often alarms programmed by previous guests aren’t turned off as part of the room cleaning routine.
- Finally, run just the fan from the AC or heater unit to create a little white noise in your room. This can help block out any hallway and parking lot disturbances through the night.
5. Remember your routine
Business travel not only throws off our sleep and wake cycles, it disrupts nearly every routine we have. Sticking to a few constants like exercise, diet and regular work hours can help with relaxation. Avoid the more common pitfalls that come with travel—overeating or over-caffeinating and pulling all-nighters to catch up on work.
Our hyper-connected world often works against us when it’s time to sleep. Digital devices can disrupt rest in a couple of ways.
- First, there’s the temptation to answer e-mail, read texts and check social networking sites 24/7 because these resources never shut off.
- Second, the light from our digital devices interferes with how our minds prepare for sleep. Our cycles of sleep and wakefulness are called our circadian rhythms and they’re regulated in part, by lightness and darkness. Plugging in right before bed tells our bodies that it’s not time to rest. Try powering down a full hour before you turn in for the night—it’ll help promote the proper rest that precedes quality sleep.
Rest can be hard-won even when we’re not on the road. Learning a few methods to unwind and making space for sleep is only becoming more important as our lives get more complex. Remember quality down-time and a deep, rejuvenating sleep is the basis of true productivity. Now, shut off your computer and get some shut-eye.
Kentin Waits is a freelance writer and marketing specialist based in Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in US Airways magazine and top-rated blogs such as Wise Bread, the Consumerist, and MSN SmartMoney. When he's not writing, Kentin runs a small online antiques business.