Travel can easily upset sleep patterns but there are tools that can help, writes Juliette Sivertsen
My mind likes to play tricks on me the night before I travel.
I will have checked my passport is in my bag five times, but will check if it's there another five times before leaving. I know I've set three alarms but will wake up in the middle of the night in a panic that I've overslept and missed my flight.
At my destination, full of excitement and stimulation, I'll be utterly exhausted but unable to get to sleep. Or I'll hit the hay early, only to be wide awake at 1am.
Beatrice Thorne, the general manager of supplement company Eve Wellness, says stress and anxiety probably take the No 1 spot as disrupters of sleep.
"When cortisol - our daytime hormone and a stress hormone - is revving after a busy day, or in anticipation of what's coming tomorrow, it inhibits melatonin from being able to take over and lull us to sleep," she explains. "However, eating within an hour of going to bed, blue light exposure from devices, alcohol, and noise or light disturbance in your place of sleep are all common culprits too."
And when it comes to travel, stress and anxiety can get the better of us, as well as different eating patterns and unfamiliarity.
"We are primal beings and familiarity is important for us to feel safe on a subconscious level. Researchers call this the "first night effect'" Being in different beds, perhaps in different time zones, with different lights, smells, and sounds, all lead the primitive part of the brain to stay more alert, meaning we're more likely to have disturbed or light sleep.
"In addition, when travelling we often go out for late dinners, drink more alcohol, and spend our days being stimulated by new places and experiences. All of these things can make deep, quality sleep harder to access."
Over the years, I've learned a few tools to help unwind. There's no one-size-fits-all approach, and the tools I use one night, might not work the next. There's a lot of trial and error but these are some of the things that I've found helpful on my travels.
As the daughter of an insomniac, I discovered the soothing effects of lavender quite early. Years ago, I bought a lavender-infused relaxing oil from The Aromatherapy Company, as part of their Therapy Range. To this day, it's the first thing I reach for before bed, or in times of heightened anxiety, rubbing a little on the inside of my wrists and other pulse points.
More recently I discovered the Relax Sleep Easy travel spray by New Zealand company Surmanti, which I mist over my pillows and bed linen. It consists of soothing essential oils such as sandalwood, amber, and ylang-ylang.
Mindfulness apps have become reasonably mainstream in the past few years as people discover the benefits of regular practice. I've tried a few different options - Headspace, Insight Timer, Clearhead - but I always come back to the Australian not-for-profit programme Smiling Mind.
The Smiling Mind app offers a number of meditation programmes catered to different needs, but their Sleep meditations are what I listen to most regularly. The free programmes have been developed by psychologists and educators - and there are meditations catered to children and teenagers as well.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps control your sleep cycle, but you can take supplements to assist if you're struggling to fall asleep. I've had my doctor prescribe it to me on several occasions to help get back into a good sleeping rhythm, and it's particularly helpful for dealing with jetlag - even if it's just a two-hour time difference.
Other supplements can be used to create the same effects - magnesium tablets can be of use, helping relax muscles and quiet the mind.
As with all supplements and medicines, be sure to check with your doctor first to see whether it's suitable as some ingredients can interact with other medication.
If mindfulness meditations don't send me off to sleep - or if there's a lot of background noise - I listen to ambient or white noise. The sound of rain falling on a tin roof, waves crashing on the shore, nocturnal owl sounds, even the sound of passing cars can all help send you off to the land of nod. If you're staying in a hotel room with surround sound, and you can connect your phone to it via Bluetooth, it makes for a blissful experience and can trick you into thinking your central city hotel is actually on the waterfront.
There are plenty of podcast options that play white noise, but my current favourite on Spotify is Tmsoft's White Noise Sleep Sounds, which consist of one-hour recordings of various ambient sounds.
Questions on keeping good mental health when travelling? Email email@example.com or find me on Twitter at @j_sivertsen