Probably the most important factor in finding renewal on the road for me is sleep. I’m still deciding how much sleep my body needs to function at peak efficiency. There are mornings that I wake at 4:00 am and feel rested, and others when I’m exhausted at 8:00. I know the quality of my sleep has a lot to do with how rested I feel, but there are some basic things I’ve learned on the road that seem to help. I’ve talked to others, and they have found different tricks and tools for them, so I’m not promoting these ideas for everyone, simply sharing what has worked for me.
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
Stop Worrying About Sleep
Controlling my worry about sleep seems to be the highest hurdle I face in getting enough. Usually the amount I stress over sleep is inversely proportional to the time I have to do it.
The best defense I’ve found to the stress issue is to plan ahead. If I know that my sleep time is limited, I’ll do everything I can to maximize the time I do have, like grabbing dinner at the airport so I don’t have to spend time at the hotel getting food. I might also proactively shorten a day that I know is going to be too long by moving a meeting or commuting out a day early.
Block the Noise
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to sleep in what I thought was a quiet hotel room, only to be woken up in the middle of the night by…well lots of stuff! I’m not sure why, but I have a rule of three when it comes to getting woken up. If I’m asleep, I can be woken twice and have no trouble getting back to dreamland, but if I’m woken a third time, that’s it – I might as well get up. So I do everything I can to make sure that once I’m asleep, the chances for noise to wake me are as slim as possible.
First I use earplugs. Over the years I’ve tried many different types and brands. The earplugs that work best for me are Mack’s Silicone Putty Ear Plugs. These are the only earplugs I’ve found that truly block most of the noises common to the hotel sleeping experience. Some people think they are too good, and will keep you from hearing your alarm, but they are just right for me, allowing me to sleep while still hearing the alarm.
I also make sure I have some type of white noise going in the background. My preferred noise being the hotel room air conditioner fan, but I’ve used all kinds of noise including apps for my iPad. As long as the noise is consistent, it works for me.
“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.”
On one trip, I accidentally booked a hotel room which turned out to be designated for smoking. The smell in that room was so bad that I found it hard to breath, and got very little sleep. I should have just gone and asked for a non-smoking room right away, but I thought I could handle it, and did not want to inconvenience the hotel staff. Over the years I think I’ve gotten better at speaking up right away when something is wrong with a room or situation I’ve been given. Loud parties, TV or music turned up too loud, a room’s location next to elevators or ice machines, and of course the room that’s just disgusting – all of these now cause me to ask for help from the front desk. If I speak up right away, I don’t lay there in my bed fuming about the sleep I should be getting.
Don’t Push It!
Recently there seems to be a lot of attention on the issue of fatigue, and it’s affects on the body, particularly on performance. There are a lot of good articles on this issue, so I won’t waste time repeating what you can find with a simple internet search. If you are not familiar with the issue let me just say that going through your day sleep deprived is probably affecting you more than you realize.
So if the fire alarm goes off and everyone is shuffled to the parking lot in their pajamas (this happens more than you might think), why push it the next day? Put off the drive home until later in the day, move back the meeting, call in fatigued for your flight (for my pilot friends). It’s just not worth pushing safety.
“I think insomnia is a sign that a person is interesting.”