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Why it’s so hard to sleep the first night away from home

If you’re a regular business traveler, you’ve likely experienced more than your fair share of tossing and turning in your hotel bed. While many people attribute this common sleeplessness to jet lag, an uncomfortable mattress or external noises, a new study suggests that the real issue might be all in your head.

Sleep researchers have identified a phenomenon called the “First Night Effect.” In essence, the study suggests that people don’t sleep well their first night in an unfamiliar room “because half of their brain is standing watch while the other half sleeps more deeply.”

While fighting your brain’s natural tendencies, there are some things you can do to improve your sleep quality – even when you’re on the road:

    • Bring your own pillow. While you can’t bring all the comforts of home with you when traveling, having your own pillow can help your body and brain stay more at ease. Of course, using high-quality pillow protectors will also improve your sleep quality, as they safeguard you against dust mites and other irritants that could keep you tossing and turning.
    • Check in early/ If you’re traveling for business, consider arriving at your hotel a day or two early so you can allow yourself to acclimate to your temporary surroundings before heading into your big meeting.
    • Block out external distractions. In addition to bringing your own pillow, consider stocking your suitcase with a sleep mask and earplugs; these items will help drown out lights and noises coming from the hotel hallway.
    • Set thermostat. Numerous studies, like this one, explain that to get optimal sleep, you need to set the temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. So when you check into your room, head to your thermostat and adjust accordingly so you can hit the hay more easily at night.


  • While there’s no place like home, these tips will help you snooze soundly when you’re on the road. Best of luck! 
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