The holidays are here. You get to see family, eat lots of great food, take some time off work ― and you get to sleep in Aunt Franny’s third guest bedroom. (That’s the one with the uncomfortable futon that you’ll be sharing with your cousin who snores.)
But don’t go thinking you need to resign yourself to poor post-turkey sleep.
No matter how torturous your sleeping accommodations may seem when visiting friends or family ― rest assured ― a few simple tricks (and a little bit of planning ahead) may be able to save your holiday slumber, William David Brown, a sleep psychologist at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, told The Huffington Post.
“It’s impossible to control for every problem that might come up,” he said. But there are a lot of steps you can take to make an unfamiliar sleep environment feel more like home, he said.
Brown and Terry Cralle, a certified clinical sleep educator, shared some tips that help them get better sleep ― even when they’re sleeping in less-than-ideal sleeping arrangements.
1. Plan ahead
Ask your friends or family about their sleep habits before you get there, Brown suggested. If they go to bed way earlier than you do, bring a book or something else to do until you’re ready to sleep, he said.
2. Stick to your routine
You’ll sleep best if you follow the same sleep routine you do at home, Brown said. “I always have a book with me because I always read before bedtime.”
3. Make it like home
You won’t be able to control every factor in a guest bedroom, but do control what you can, Brown said. Pack your favorite pillow or blanket that you use at home, he said. “It takes up packing space, but if you sleep better it is worth it.”
A good pillow can salvage a not-so-great mattress ― and a great mattress can be undermined by a terrible pillow, Cralle added.
4. Cut out the racket
If traffic, young children or other unfamiliar noises are keeping you awake, try using a portable white noise machine or a white noise app, Cralle said. White noise helps us sleep by drowning out other disruptive sounds that might wake us up during the night.
“I use them even if it’s quiet when I fall asleep,” Cralle said. “I am as proactive as possible in ensuring that good night’s sleep to ensure a great [next] day.”
5. Have earplugs at the ready
White noise not cutting it? Keep a pair of earplugs in your suitcase just in case, Cralle said.
“I never, never travel without earplugs,” Cralle said. “Even if I don’t need them, just knowing that I have them gives me peace of mind.”
And peace of mind is good for sleep, she said.
6. Use an eye mask
And on that note, keep an eye mask handy, too, to block stray light you’re not accustomed to, Cralle said.
Brown’s tip: Try them out at home before you travel. “If they are bothersome to you at home, they will be really difficult in a different environment,” he said.
7. Turn off the electronics and extra lights
Don’t be kept up by the glow from a digital clock or TV, Brown said. Unplug electronics you can or ask your host if you can sleep in another room, he said.
8. Watch how much and when you’re drinking
If you’re traveling over the holidays you may be staying up later than normal or drinking more than normal, Brown added. And too much alcohol too close to bedtime can make for rough sleep.
9. Think positively
Don’t assume you’ll sleep terribly just because you’re away from home, Brown said. “This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
And if you do sleep poorly one night, don’t get too hung up on it, he added. You might be more tired than usual the next day. But, he said: “This is OK because being sleep-deprived will make it easier to fall asleep [the next night]” ― and you’ll probably wake up less frequently during the night, too.
And if all else fails, consider abandoning ship, Brown said. If your sleeping assignment is too disruptive or uncomfortable, you may be better off getting a hotel, he said.
“You can explain that you are not [accustomed to that sleeping environment] and to enjoy your trip, you need sleep,” Brown said.
Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.