Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nighti- (AWAKIE) Night

Interesting, trying to get a good night's sleep on the road when you're a Very Light Sleeper—and, I imagine, even if you're not. Travel schedules that don't work out the way you plan; insane agendas that do. The lure of the grab-and-go candy bar and a cola (CAFFEINE) when there's no other choice. The mental aftermath of meetings that leave your mind whirring like a meat grinder trying to create premium sausages out of carpet remnants. Alarms, which you didn't set, ringing at 4:30 a.m. next to your ear. Pillows and bedspreads that smell one day short of a nursing home. (I actually experienced this in a famous hotel. Double blaaaaach.)

For me, one of the worst violators of my snooze time is an air conditioner or heating system that clunks, or even just clicks, as it turns on and off, jarring me awake with each switch. Or how about doors that schloop-BANG? Or people who meet in the hall and TALK FULL BLAST RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR?

Then of course we have the ongoing BING when your room is too near the elevator (can a hotelier out there please explain to me why this binging is necessary) and the heart jolting CL-CR-CL-CR-BLADL CRUNCH-BLADL CRUNCH, CLATTER-CLATTER-CLATTER of the 2 a.m. ice machine that's been jump started by a drunken sports fan or wedding reception attendee ready to continue partying with the rest of the folks who just rolled off the elevator to their block of rooms on your floor.

Another Real Baddy for me is when I'm tired, it's bed time and yet I can't go to my room because the business part isn't over yet . . . and then I catch a second wind. Why, you might wonder (or not) is this bad? Because my second wind is not a functional wind; it's about as productive at keeping me awake or helping me get to sleep as a gale blowing open the eyes on a corpse. When my head finally does hit the pillow, that's just how I look: eyes OPEN, yet dead.

As I ponder the plethora of sleep-producing travel accessories I've purchased in order to help me achieve a worthy eight--or at least five, or even three--hours of ongoing sleep, it's kinda mind boggling. And scary. Of course I've traveled with various types of eye covers (from silk, scented ones to used wet tea bags), ear plugs (I find swimmer's wax works best), lavender pillow sprays, sound machines (several brands and styles) and a humidifier. Yes, I honest-to-gosh bought a travel humidifier for one of my earlier book tours. It was heavy, cumbersome, hard to dry out before repacking and large enough that I had to check my bag if I also wanted to travel with essentials. (A quick Google search for "travel humidifiers" reveals they make them much smaller, lighter and smarter now, at least so they say. If you've found one you like, let me know.)

Shortly after arriving home from that tour, I came down with a horrendous case of bronchitis. I've always wondered if it had something to do with that spendy humidifier spewing wads of manufactured mist right at my face every night. But hey, if you wake yourself up enough times making that half strangling/half choking sound because your throat is as dry as a gravel pit, you're willing to try anything at least once, which relates to another reason I don't sleep: my own sounds wake me up. Any of them. Now that's bad.

Over time, I've resorted to:

*Flannel pajamas any time of year so I can turn the air conditioner as cold as it will go so it won't turn on and off;

*Locking my pillow around my noggin' with my arms as if I'm a professional wrestler who's turned on myself. Of course this was before pillows got too fluffy to fold in half. With the masses of monster shee-shee 600 thread count versions on today's hotel beds, I no longer try this for fear of suffocating myself;

*Sleeping with my head at the foot end of the bed (euuuwwww) so it's not so near the shared wall when the NOISY passionate express plays out next door, and

*Dialing the radio to "all static all the time," creating my own sound machine, or . . . .

I've tried them all. I've tried everything but sleep medications because I'm a speaker who often needs to wax PERKY very early in the morning, especially when I travel East and the breakfast meeting begins at 6 a.m. my time.

But lately I'm partaking in/using none of the above because I travel as light as possible (I never check a bag, no matter how wrinkled or dribbled I might end up looking), which means I need to keep things light and simple. My all-in-one secret nighttime weapon? A jar of Vicks® VapoRub® in my zip-top plastic bag. ("Cough Suppressant/Topical Analgesic." ) Just before turning out the light, I smear a dab of it under my nose (and sometimes on my sore, luggage toting back) and recall how comforting and soothing was my mother's tender, loving act of kindness when, as a child with a cold, she put me to bed by gently rubbing a good dose of the thick ointment into my chest. (Scientists say a sense of smell is a powerful memory invoker--but that it can also help us track like dogs. Well, not quite as well.) Then I thwack the pillows a few times, say my prayers and end them with AMEN AND GOOD NIGHT. It works about as well as anything, which is to say I've discovered that a comforting, sensory-laden routine is my best friend. It doesn't always produce the results I'd like, but it gets me as close, if not closer, than all other gizmos and theatrics I've tried throughout the years.

And yet . . . I still fan the pages of trendy travel catalogs in hopes of finding the One Small Thing that guarantees a good night's rest on the road. But even when I do spot those tempting dozing enhancers, I no longer fall for them. At least not yet.

So tell me, what are your best tricks for restful, peaceful, guaranteed shut-eye on the road? Or is this where together we simply say, "HA!"?


Angela said...

Four words--cough syrup with codeine. :=) Works for me!


Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

I'm glad you have a remedy that works for you. As for me, codeine makes me really sick, and not in a way that would help me sleep. :(

Nancy said...

I always turn off the AC before going to bed. I've found that, even with extreme outdoor temperatures, the room's temperature doesn't change much with the AC off.