Would you book a hotel room if you knew the bathroom was a walk away — outdoors? That subject came up recently when I recommended TreeBones, an incredible eco-resort in Big Sur, to a friend. I told her TreeBones was one of my favorite places I’ve ever stayed, but warned her that the elegantly furnished yurts didn’t have their own bathrooms and that reaching the shared bathroom required going outside into the cold night air. “Oh, that wouldn’t work for me; I’d wake up and never get back to sleep,” was her self-knowing response.
My friend’s not alone. Middle of the night waking is a big issue for women, particularly women over 40. And getting to sleep — and staying asleep — can be even tougher when you’re not in your own carefully arranged bedroom. Here’s how to avoid late night insomnia while traveling.
1. Don’t drink a lot of liquids after 8 p.m. Skip the post-dinner decaf; having to pee in the middle of the night is the number one reason women wake up and can’t get back to sleep.
2. Prevent overheating. Fluffy comforters and the warm, dry, recirculated air in hotels aren’t always a great combination for women, who tend to sleep warm to begin with. And don’t even mention the night sweats that come with perimenopause. Experts say a cool room is best for deep sleep, so turn down the thermostat, jettison a blanket or two, and don’t hesitate to readjust as necessary if you wake up overheated.
3. Don’t overdo the alcohol. While a glass of wine or a nightcap brings on an initial wave of sleepiness, thanks to the “rebound effect” you can find yourself wide awake a few hours later. This effect is due to the complicated way alcohol interacts with brain chemicals; all you need to know is that overindulging at dinner can lead to grumpy mornings.
4. When you do wake up, keep the room dark. Instead of turning on the overhead light, bring a small book light or mini flashlight and put it next to your bed for navigating your way to the bathroom. (If there’s a night a dim night-light in the bathroom, you can leave the door cracked to find your way.) Whatever you do, don’t turn on the overhead light in the bathroom once you’re there.
5. No late-night TV or checking Facebook. Nope, not even for a few minutes — the light from the screen “resets” your internal clock, stimulating your central nervous system and making it harder for you to fall back asleep.
6. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. That hotel-provided pad and paper are your best weapons against racing thoughts and worries. If you tend to lie awake making to-do lists in your head, keep supplies on your bedside table and keep a running list. (Again, use a book light; don’t turn on the overhead or a bright bedside light to write.) As you put each item down on paper, imagine yourself shrugging off that concern.
7. Do a simple isolation and relaxation exercise. Staring with your feet, relax methodically focusing on each part of your body separately. First tense the muscles in your toes as hard as you can, then release; do the same with your calves, thighs, etc. By the time you get to your neck and head, you should feel much of the day’s tension release.