Why Is Falling Asleep in Hotels So Hard? And How Do You Fix It?

Sometimes I imagine being able to run away to my local hotel and get a good night's sleep. Plus room service. Plus the mini-bar. Plus a buffet breakfast. I'm always left disappointed, though, when I toss and turn and struggle to fall asleep. I'm tired and I haven't had a good night's sleep in years, if not decades (#blessedmom).

Why aren't I falling into a deep, dreamless sleep?

It turns out that difficulty sleeping in hotels is totally normal and due to our animal instincts. If you really want get specific about who or what to blame, point the finger squarely at the left side of your brain.

In his book The Doctorthe brilliant and ever so knowledgeable Australian scientist Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki says "first-night effect" is due to the left side of our brains saying partially awake in order to stay aware of any potential danger due to our new surroundings. He says it's so well-known among the medical community that data collected on the first night of sleep studies is usually disregarded.

It could also be related to the brain function that allows us to sleep while the garbage truck bangs down the road, but wakes for a baby crying.

"This pathway might be related to parents being able to sleep through a thunderstorm, but snapping awake as soon as their newborn baby makes the slightest noise," he told The Mirror.

While it's good news for those wanting to survive the nightin a perfectly safe hotelit's bad news for those expecting a excellent night's sleep. At least it normally only lasts for one night.

Dr Karl says there's lots you can do to avoid first-night effect, like:

  • Bring your favorite pillow with you.
  • Avoid the mini-bar.

Rebecca Robbins, a sleep researcher, consultant and author of Sleep for Successtold Condé Nast Traveler to try making the hotel room feel as much like home as possible.

"I’m a huge fan of making your hotel room feel as much like home as possible. I pack a picture of my family in my wallet, cashmere socks, and a travel pillow. My co-author and I worked with a company to design a pillow that has silver thread and it keeps your head cool at night. Little tricks like that can help you feel comfortable in an unfamiliar environment."

Robbins also that it's okay to dip into the mini-bar, but choose the milk or a light snack; never alcohol.

"I’m a big proponent of a pre-bed snackthat’s another thing we’ve worked on at the Benjamin: designing pre-bed bites that are about 200 calories each. Typically, the best advice is to avoid proteins before bed, but milk is the one exception. So many of our mothers made us warm milk before bed, so that’s an example where whatever is relaxing to you is the best thing."

This post originally appeared on Mamamia, Spring.St's Australian sister site. You can read it here.