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Sleep tips for holidays (and the days before)

sleep tips for holidays

I wake in a blind panic, thumping pillows, sweating and heavy breathing as I stumble round the room on my hands and knees. I have no idea where I am and I can’t see a thing. I work my way round the room like some kind of crazed zombie woman. A light comes on and I slowly come to my senses on the floor, my hands on my son’s face. He is muttering at me to get off and my husband is sat up bolt upright in bed, calling my name.

I’m on holiday in France. This is what happens when I wake up in a strange place in the dark.

It took me a few incidents of waking in country cottages to discover my fear of waking up in the pitch black. Now I always go to sleep with a light on in a new place, and wearing my watch which has a light and/or with my phone under the pillow so I can use it as a torch.

I rarely struggle to sleep in everyday life, in fact the opposite is often true, I struggle to stay awake. Travel is the one exception, when I travel I often struggle to settle, both before and during a trip. So today I thought I would share some sleep tips for holidays, would love to hear yours too!

Think about your personal sleep challenges before you book, holidays are meant to be relaxing so there is no point over compromising. Will you be kept awake worrying about your children sleeping at the opposite end of the house or by sharing a room with them? Is being in the middle of nowhere going to give you nightmares, or too much traffic going to disrupt your sleep?

Use a packing list. Having a list, or different lists for different types of holiday really helps to automate the packing process and take the worry out of packing.

The sound of your brain panicking about what it might have forgotten is far from soothing. Keep a notebook by your bed so that you can write down any last minute things you have forgotten to pack, or things you need to remember to do in the morning. Empty your brain of the resposinsibilty of remembering these things so it can focus on a getting a good night’s sleep ahead of your break.

Set multiple alarms if you have an early wake up to make a flight or train, that way if you snooze one, or one fails you’re covered. It’s easier to drop off when you are not worrying about the alarm going off. Google ‘phone wake up call‘ to find a range of free services and organise a wake up phone call.

Pack sleep aids to match your normal sleep style. I have family who live in the middle of nowhere who can’t sleep in anything but pitch black silence, so when they stay with us in Nottingham, until the gentle glow of orange street lamps and the hum of traffic, they need both ear plugs and eye masks.

A portable night light can be reassuring when travelling, especially with kids.

I have a lavender pillow spray which I use at home and when travelling – it makes me feel relaxed and at home anywhere we go.

Take time to get your bearings when staying away from home, whether that’s of your accommodation or the area before you switch off. If you’re prone to anxiety over falling asleep then try to arrive earlier in the day rather than the middle of the night where possible. This way your surroundings will feel more familiar and you will be more naturally tired from a day’s activity. If you have to arrive in the middle of the night, consider a stop over in an airport hotel to acclimatise.

Luckily accommodation and hotels share information more frequently than they used to about the type of pillows, bedding and mattresses they have, one sleeper might be fine on a cheap memory foam mattress whereas others need a orthopaedic pocket sprung mattress. It’s okay to ask ahead too.

Settling children is a whole other game, we lower our expectations, let them stay up later until they have acclimatised and are really tired. We use baths to calm them down and always take audio books for when we are too tired to read any more.

You could also try my Mum’s favourite relaxation exercise, it works a dream on me and my kids

How do you manage sleep on holiday?


Thanks for collaborating on this post Mattress Next Day, for more info on working with me, go here.

Image – Shutterstock, Sleeping Camel



  1. 13/03/2017 / 9:34 pm

    Hi Penny, I also have a problem sleeping in new places. These tips are very good I’m gonna try to use that pillow spray. Can you recommend me where to find a good portable night light? Angel 

    • Penny Alexander
      22/03/2017 / 9:23 am

      I saw some in Tiger recently Angel, cheap and cheerful! Glad the tips were handy!

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