If there's anyone to take sleep advice from, it's Arianna Huffington. Not only has she learned a thing or two while traveling the world throughout her publishing career, but she has also spent the past few years researching sleep deprivation and its effects on the brain, which she details in her book The Sleep Revolution. Huffington stopped by The Dr. Oz Show in New York City on September 20 for a special sleep-related episode in partnership with the nutritional supplement manufacturer USANA Health Sciences, and InStyle was able to catch up with the best-selling author to get some tips from the expert herself—and to find out where she's had the best snooze of her life.
“My favorite hotel is in London, it’s the Firehouse hotel on Chiltern Street,” Huffington dished. “It’s kind of amazing because they have eliminated all screens from the bedroom. By your bed is an old-fashioned phone, and next to it is a white pad and pencil, and written on the pad is ‘anything you want, dial 0.’ You know how sometimes you go to rooms and you feel like you need an engineering degree to process what you press for concierge and what you press for room service? This is super simple. All the lights are regulated by old-fashioned knobs, and somehow that old-fashioned feeling relaxes the nervous system. I get my best sleep there.”
Of course, heading to another timezone means battling the inevitable bout of jet lag, so getting a good night's sleep may seem like a fallacy. To combat the exhaustion, Dr. Michael J. Breus of The Dr. Oz Show (and author of The Power of When) says you can actually get ahead of it before you even set foot on the plane.
“If you know the timezone of where you’re going, you can slowly start moving your sleep schedule,” Dr. Breus explained. “It works well, but you can really only move your sleep an hour a night later. The problem is, though, what are you going to do about work? Imagine telling your boss, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m shifting my sleep schedule so I can’t come in.’ That’s where melatonin comes in.”
Not only can you start taking the sleep-friendly supplement melatonin (he swears by USANA Pure Rest) before your trip, but he also recommends taking it throughout your stay. In fact, there are a number of jet lag calculator apps you can download that will help you regulate your melatonin usage based on your departure and arrival time. Who knew? Dr. Breus also suggests using light therapy during your trip to reset your circadian rhythm—basically getting at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight when you wake up in the morning to get your body back on a natural sleep schedule.
Huffington adds that it’s super important to follow your regular sleep ritual no matter where you are—especially if you’re having trouble winding down due to the adrenaline rush of traveling. Her ritual consists of covering all bright electronics with tape (she actually travels with masking tape), taking a long, warm bath full with Epsom salt, charging her phone in the bathroom instead of the nightstand so she isn't tempted to scroll through Instagram in the middle of the night, and finally reading some light poetry in bed.
“That’s my ritual at home, and that’s my ritual while I travel,” she said. “Taking your ritual with you is great because we learn by ritual.”
Despite your greatest efforts, it's important to recognize that jet lag is always going to suck a little bit, but the experiences you'll have on your travels will always outweigh the short-lived discomfort—so don't let it deter you from seeing the world. Just make sure you make sleep a priority when you get there, even though you may be tempted to start sightseeing at 6 o’clock in the morning. Huffington reminds us that you won't be able to fully appreciate the sights if you're not well rested, since the brain needs at least 7-9 hours per night to function properly. Your memory, metabolism, impulse control, and immune system are all affected by sleep.
“If you’re on vacation, just let yourself sleep!” Huffington advises. “And eliminate the alarm on vacation so you can really recharge and refuel and truly honor that.”