9 Ways to Sleep Better When You’re Away from Home

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make a hotel feel like home - image of woman eating on hotel bed

We’ve all heard the phrase, “There’s no place like home.” And while Dorothy was most likely expressing her strong desire to get out of Oz, we can certainly agree with the sentiment—especially when it comes to sleep. Whether it’s that quarterly business trip that always seems to come at the worst time or the extended family vacation that goes just one day too long, there’s nothing quite like coming home to your own bed.

Whatever the reason, many of us will likely find ourselves away from the warmth of our bed at some point shortly. And since we’re continuously focused on improving the quality of your sleep, we put together a guide for the times when the comfort of your own bed is just not possible. Here’s how to make a hotel feel like home.

Fact: There’s nothing like your own bed

Let’s start off by examining why you love your bed so much. Beyond the physical comfort of your own mattress, the concept of familiarity plays a big role in how well you sleep. Research shows that your brain gravitates towards stimuli that are more familiar, and, from an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. In general, your brain loves familiar things because they have proven safe and therefore enable you to relax when you encounter them. When you apply this understanding to the experience of staying in an unfamiliar hotel room, you can start to see why it might be hard to relax, let alone get a good night’s sleep. (Here are 10 nighttime activities that can help you relax.)

How to make your hotel room look like home

We all know that excitement that occurs when you open the door to your hotel room for the first time. What’s this light do? What’s behind that door? How in the world did they fold that towel into a swan? This flurry of questions reflects your natural curiosity about the new space. But it also puts your brain into overdrive, making it difficult to wind down at the end of the day. To help ease your mind and make a hotel feel like home, focus on adding some soothing visual components to your hotel room:

Rearrange the furniture

A strange layout may cause an unpleasant strain on your inner-decorator, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Feel free to rearrange the furniture and room layout in a feng-shui layout that suits you.

Unpack your luggage

Nobody likes to pack and to save the headache many of us will just live out of our suitcase during your hotel stay. Unless you live that way at home, this method will serve a constant reminder that you’re in a foreign place and may even prevent you from ever really feeling comfortable.

Customize the bedside table

Usually, the bedside table is the closest item to your bed. Take advantage of this proximity and make this space yours by putting up your favorite photos (yes, the hard copies), your book of choice, your favorite water bottle, and maybe even a light or candle from home.

How to make your hotel room feel like home

Sometimes you may be limited on upgrading the look of your hotel room, but you’re hardly ever limited when it comes to improving the feel of it. We’re talking about those home-based smells and the universal pleasure of finding just the right sleeping temperature. These are the tips that go deeper than what we see and strive to re-create the calming feel of home:

Bring your favorite scents

Did you know your nose can detect more than one trillion scents? Your sense of smell is a powerful factor in helping you feel calm and the familiar. Everyday scents such as your daily coffee (or tea), linens (pillowcases and sheets), and toiletries (soap and shampoo) can all help put your nose—and mind—to bed. (Here are four ways lavender helps you sleep.)

Reduce light and sound

The surrounding lights and sounds of the hotel are out of your control. What’s not is the use of a sleep mask and white noise machine or app. You may not be able to recreate the light and sounds of your own room, but you can definitely use these tools to ensure the hotel atmosphere doesn’t affect your sleep.

Optimize the climate

The advised temperature range for sleep is 60–67 degrees Fahrenheit, and the good news that you usually have full authority over the hotel room’s thermostat without the worry of a utility bill. Find a cool temperature well before bedtime, and, as an added bonus, throw on your favorite pair of socks to give you that extra feeling of home. (Learn how to sleep cool.)

How to act like you’re at home

If your actions define you, then you better use them to your advantage. You already know your body loves routines, and one of the first things to go when you’re on the road is your sense of routine. Don’t let that happen by focusing on these normalizing actions that are designed to bring you back to the high-quality sleep habit you’ve grown accustomed to:

Stick to your pre-bed routine

We know it’s tempting to raid the mini-fridge and check out all the new channels in your hotel room, but, in terms of nighttime prep, these are not the best ideas. Even in a new spot, your body will recognize the bedtime progression and the closer you stick to it, the more you’ll be able to make it feel like home and the quicker you will be counting sheep.

Get a quick workout

Studies have shown little as 10 minutes of exercise can improve your health. Many hotels have a workout facility on site, and you can always find a way to squeeze in a run or a walk no matter where you stay. Counteract all the adrenaline and curiosity of the travel and hotel by tiring your body enough that you’ll actually want to go to bed. (Here’s how early morning workouts can help you sleep better.)

Make friends

Encountering new faces really doesn’t help achieve your goal of acting like you’re at home. So change it! Make it a point to learn the hotel staff’s name or maybe even that neighbor you keep running into on the elevator. Suddenly, you’ll start to feel relaxed that you’re surrounded by new friends and not strangers.

The bottom line: Staying at a hotel is exciting and shouldn’t automatically reduce the quality of your sleep. Even though there is nothing like the comfort of your own bed, these tips can help you become more familiar in your hotel and ultimately give you the kind of night’s sleep you’ve come to expect. Next, check out these other sleep tips for travelers.