Even in the lavish surroundings of a four-star hotel, most people don't sleep as well when they're away from home as when they're in their own bed. The poor sleep that often occurs in a strange environment is known as the first-night effect. This name is appropriate because sleep often improves considerably after as little as one night away from home.
One trick to getting sound sleep when away from home is to make the environment seem more familiar and homelike. A simple way to do this is to bring along some objects from home. Bring your own pillow, pictures of family, or other reminders of your own bedroom and home. Also try to follow your usual routine in the hour before bed. If you read before bed, bring along a book or grab the local newspaper. If you usually take a shower, do the same. Give your body all its usual clues that bedtime is approaching.
If, on the other hand, you find you sleep better away from home, try to determine why. What did the new sleep environment have that your bedroom at home does not? No pets? Better pillows? A firmer mattress? A quieter environment? Distance from life's problems? When you get home, try some of our suggestions for making your sleep environment more sleep-friendly.
Moving? Check Out the Neighborhood
If you're planning on moving, check out prospective new homes and neighborhoods for noise pollution before you sign a deal. Here are some tips to help you screen out sleep-stealing housing situations:
- Take samples of the neighborhood noise. Notice the space between houses. Does the bedroom of that new house back up against someone else's porch, barbecue area, basketball court? Does the neighbor's dog bark every time someone walks by? Ask other tenants or homeowners whether the neighbors are considerate about keeping noise to a minimum.
- Check noise levels around the area in the daytime, the evening and at night. That quaint tavern or nearby park may seem quiet during the day, but what about late in the evenings or on weekends?
- When renting an apartment or buying a condo, check the thickness of the walls. Can you hear the television of the tenants next door?
- Check out the traffic patterns in the area. The bus stop near the front door may seem very convenient until you realize the whole apartment shakes each time the bus rumbles through on its 24-hour route. The same may be true if the home is located along a truck route. The house may be miles from the local airport, but take-off and landing patterns may channel flights right over it.
Be alert that high prices and fancy addresses are no guarantee of peace and quiet. Obviously, you cannot eliminate all the noise or find a place that meets all your noise-related criteria, but you should at least think about whether your new home will be in a place where you can get some rest.
Sleeping is something all of us must do every night. With the information from this article, you'll be on your way to getting the most out of your sleep time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Virgil D. Wooten, M.D., is the medical director of the TriHealth Sleep Centers at Good Samaritan and Bethesda North hospitals in Cincinnati. He is also a diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and a consultant, writer, and speaker on sleep-related subjects. Dr. Wooten has more than 25 years of research, clinical and teaching experience.