A Travel Editor’s Tricks for Sleeping (Well!) on the Road

Whether I find myself tossing and turning at home or jetlagged in some far-flung corner of the world, I’ve never been great at getting a good night’s rest. But after a recent trip to the Swiss Alps, where I popped in at Lonhea, the buzzy new wellness clinic in Villars-sur-Ollon, I've been better.

Never mind the daily massages and the mazots (elevated chalets); this is a spa of the most serious sort. Guests are greeted with four-hour consultations involving a NASA-designed head contraption that tests sensory motor skills so the resident doctor, Michel Golay, could figure out how to help them live longer.

They’re also sent to bed wearing sleep trackers. Because key to Lonhea’s method—between the mountain biking and seasonal, prebiotic cuisine—is high-quality shut-eye. For the sake of mental clarity, of course, but also for preventing chronic, life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, cancer, unfortunately the list goes on. Without proper sleep, exercising and eating well won’t necessarily lead to good health.

Of course, it’s not so easy to wind down—let alone sleep well—when you’re on the road, especially if you’re crossing time zones. But courtesy of Dr. Golay, I picked up a few tips that help (no Xanax needed):

Pre-Flight

Do exercise before boarding a redeye. The goal is to tire yourself out so you can actually sleep on the plane—and hit the ground running when you land. Dr. Golay suggests a high-intensity workout six hours before you fly to release stress hormones. They should drop to a slumber-ready level right around takeoff.

Don’t eat during your flight if you don't have to. Instead, load up on foods that are rich in tryptophan—an essential amino acid found in poultry, eggs, dairy, nuts, and soy—three to four hours beforehand. When combined with carbohydrates (I’m envisioning a really nice sandwich), tryptophan creates serotonin and melatonin, a couple of mood-stabilizing, sleep-inducing hormones that will also help reset your body clock.

Post-Flight

Do stretch it out. It’ll help relieve muscle tension, get the blood flowing, and counter the effects of stress hormones released during your trip. Yin-style yoga is especially effective in this regard—the idea is to hold each pose for an extended period of time (several minutes) and breath deep.

Don’t go for the steak dinner. At Lonhea, protein is not served after lunch. Dr. Golay’s theory is that eating sets off your digestive system, which in turn stimulates the mind—“food for thought,” literally. When your stomach is working hard to digest, say, a medium-rare filet mignon, you’ll find it much harder to nod off, and by the time you do fall asleep, you likely won’t be sleeping well. Try keeping a vegetarian diet at night—it’s quicker and easier to process, promoting a better quality of rest.

—Christine Ajudua

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